School blues

E T Arasu

This April, I visited a private school in Chennai. It has been an academically well-performing school, yet the principal was concerned about the board results. She said she was confronted with three specific problems in her school: students’ lack of interest in attending special classes, parents’ indifference to lend cooperation to school-based interventions for improving students’ performance, and the teachers’ struggles to produce quality results. The issues were genuine and so I pondered over the reasons for their existence and probable solutions to deal with them in the hope that the exercise would be of use to other schools facing similar predicaments.

When the principal talked about ‘students’ lack of interest in attending special classes’, she meant that students were not turning up for remedial teaching classes. Today’s student is hard pressed for time as he has to run from school to coaching classes meant for various entrance examinations. If what is taught in school could take care of not only school exams but also the students’ entrance exam preparation, the problem of bunking special classes will not arise. Further, learning is a purposeful and destination specific journey and students should be made aware of this. Value clarifications on these issues can eliminate students’ apathy to remedial classes.

classroom The second problem was lack of parental support for school-based interventions. If parents fail to respond to the school’s programme designed to help their wards, there must be something wrong with the programme itself. In such a situation it would augur well for the school to examine the type, utility, and output or effectiveness of the programme it offers students. Quality education is a sure way to guarantee a student’s success, which can be achieved by diagnosing his needs and designing need-specific teaching-learning programmes. The changing dynamics of learning, the challenging classrooms, and well-informed students put a serious demand on teachers’ time and energy to equip themselves with current knowledge and skills. The days of total submission of students and passive learning are over. The present-day IT-savvy student encounters the teacher with plenty of questions in mind and seeks answers. Teachers capable of answering questions are revered, but the ones who use authoritarian suppression techniques get rejected. The teacher has to recognize that today’s students want ‘learning teachers’ rather than ‘learned-teachers’. School-based interventions which have components of need-based remedial measures, empathetic teaching, and educational counselling will certainly gain acceptability among the students. And when they inform their parents as to what goes on in school for their benefit, automatically parental support for school based interventions will gain momentum.

The third problem was the ‘struggles’ of teachers to make the students learn and produce 100 percent results! The principal agreed that almost all her teachers teaching board classes were suffering from blood pressure or diabetes, mostly as the result of work pressure and stress. For most teachers, stress-free teaching actually means students lending support to ‘cover’ the syllabus/course, and the teachers themselves only uncovering the mysteries of it! The support the teacher expects from the students also include passive listening, not asking questions in the class, and doing home assignments correctly since teachers consider correction a stress. It is not a digression for the teacher to come down to the level of ‘partners in learning’. In classes where teachers and students become partners in learning, there are meaningful debates and discussions, stimulating question-answer sessions, experimentation, and experiential learning. Here, the teacher assumes the role of a mentor or facilitator. Where the teacher becomes a true friend, philosopher, and guide, ‘the unwilling horse syndrome’ vanishes and students get the taste of real learning. It is said that things done with love energize, whereas hatred breeds anger and stress. Hence, the remedy for stress is love for the profession with a passion for learning and evolving and a readiness to meet the changing needs of the students’ world. The world of education has answers to all school blues. It is time the stakeholders came together to explore and utilize the best available ‘man-making educational strategies’ with a view to ensuring a better tomorrow for today’s students.

The author has been serving in Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan since 1981 in various positions – as teacher, Education Officer/Assistant Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner/Director. Currently he is heading the Zonal Institute of Education & Training (ZIET) as Director. The ZIET is one of the five training wings of Kendriya Vidyalaya. He can be reached at etarasu1959@gmail.com.