Is the Education System Pressurising Young Minds?

The Ministry of Human Resource Development in a circular dated 5 October 2018 had imposed restrictions on the school bag weight and the amount of homework given to the students of first and second standard. The Ministry had instructed all states and union territories to frame necessary guidelines in accordance with the Central Government’s instructions. The circular had also ordered for the regulation of the school curriculum. These instructions signal an improvement in the primary education sector as it caters to the immediate needs of the children.

The limit on the weight of the school bag is an area of concern that requires serious deliberations and considerations. The heavy school bags are a great burden to the kids. The age of 4–17 is an important phase in the growth of a human being, as most of the growth in terms of physical, emotional and intellectual maturity happens during this period. Heavy bags put immense pressure on the shoulder muscles and spinal cord. This causes serious health hazards in the form of back pain and many other bone and muscle related injuries. Used to carrying heavy bags all the time, the kids may later on adopt the same bent walking style. This again has got health implications in the form of dizziness, breathing difficulty and tiredness. Keeping this in mind, the Government has insisted that the first and second standard kids must not be given any homework and the weight of their school bags must not exceed 1.5 kg. The permissible weight for third to fifth grade is 2–3 kg, for sixth to seventh grade is 4 kg, for eighth to ninth grade is 4.5 kg and for tenth grade is 5 kg.

Further, the Ministry instructed schools to not ask the students to bring any additional textbooks, notebooks or study materials. The Ministry also pointed out the need and possibility of providing digital education so as to enhance the comprehensiveness of the curriculum and to reduce the burden on students. Under the new guidelines, subjects other than languages and mathematics are not allowed to be taught to students of class Ⅰ and Ⅱ. Only languages, mathematics and EVS are to be taught to children from third to fifth standard. Over a period of time, various circulars and orders were issued by the Ministry regarding the above stated concerns.

The Ministry insisted on simplifying the syllabus, especially for the younger classes. To begin with, the present curriculum and syllabus are framed at a higher standard than the student competency levels. In order to make the syllabus more compliant with the standard of competition examinations, the curriculum is made tough so as to meet only the needs of students who are advanced learners. Also, especially in the realm of private schools, increasing rivalry between schools and the thirst for hundred percent results have pushed the top ranking schools into framing challenging curriculum for the younger children. It has more or less become a trend among many schools to admit students to kindergarten after a so called entrance exam to gauge the child’s learning capacity. This creates unhealthy competition and the fear of elimination in the minds of kids. This also contributes to the parental mentality of considering the success of their children as an addition to their social status. Even the parents are biased towards children who get more marks. Exam results are seen as the indication of talent and intellect. Many teachers are not exceptions to the bias as well. This demotivates students who score average or less marks.

The syllabus of CBSE and ICSE boards in fact follows an IIT standard, thereby pressurising the already exhausted young minds. At this point, it is necessary to ask how good our educational system is in evaluating talent and intellect. If one asks whether the exams and grades are true indicators of an individual’s ability, the answer is no. Exams just test an individual’s memory power and time management skills. Also, entrance exams and interviews for enrolment in primary schools put the idea of competition into the minds of children in a very young age. Thus, the idea of the survival of the fittest is imparted as one of the first lessons in schools. Students, therefore, will only prioritise competition rather than enjoying a colourful childhood.

Thus, it is high time to realise the true meaning of education as a system contributing to the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual growth and enlightenment of an individual. Rather than focusing on high results and ranking, the educational system must focus on improving the child’s attitude, character and personality. Schools must train children to be good citizens, rather than turning their brains into encyclopaedias.

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