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Indian Children Suffer Educational Overkill

The Indian educational system, especially as practised in schools for the more privileged, kills the creativity, passion, natural talents and aesthetic inclinations of our children, right from their kindergarten days. Their right to play and to enjoy some leisure are ignored by parents and teachers.

While British children get no homework and American children get only minimal homework, Indian children are burdened with ever-increasing homework. Indian children are made 'prisoners in the four walls of the house by unlimited homework' as termed by the Review Committee of the Education Ministry, Government of India, in the conclusion of their 1977 report. Generally, a three-hour homework schedule following a five-hour workday will result in 'all work and no play that makes Jack a dull boy'.

The number of subjects included in the syllabus goes on increasing. The teachers complain that they can neither explain the lessons in detail nor do the activities recommended as exercises. When the teachers do not get enough time to teach the lessons, the children are sent to tuition classes. Thus, the little time they get to play or the leisure interludebetween the school hours and the homeworksession is lost in the tuition classes.

Weekends and holidays are spent in preparing projects required by the curriculum. Most of the projects are prepared by parents, using readymade articles from shops, denying the children any scope for imagination, creativityor involvement in the activity. Even a part of the long vacations is used up for special coaching classes and training programmes.

Regarding the syllabus, the practice of teaching several languages at the same timeis burdening the children so much that they have little time left to concentrate on maths and other science or knowledge-based subjects. Children in many schoolshave to learn a regional language (Oriya, Malayalam, Gujarati, Tamil, Kannada, Punjabi, Telugu, Bengali, etc.), the national language (Hindi), the global link language (English) and the classical language (Sanskrit). It is true that children who have a natural inclination for learning languages may benefit by this over-emphasis on languages. But children who have more interest in mathematics and sciences will have little time left to study the subjects they like and vice versa.

The school bags carried by children are so heavy that 60 per cent of school children suffer from orthopaedic ailments. The Indian Journal of Paediatrics says that 30 per cent of school children complain of back pain. A school bag, weighing more than 15% of the body weight of the child carrying it, will change the angle of the neck, shoulder, trunk and lower limbs of the child, affecting his posture in the unhealthiest manner.

When children are burdened with homework, they are deniedthe vital interaction with family members - parents, brothers and sisters, and other children in theneighbourhood, that is necessary for their social and emotional growth. As a result, children grow up into adults who are at a loss when it comes to social behaviour and interaction with other people.

It is high time that we saved our children from the physical overburden of the school bags and the mental overburden of the ever-billowing syllabus. Let political and economic considerations not outweigh the advices and observations of genuine academicians, social scientists and educational experts. Let our children enjoy their childhood and grow up into healthy citizens of a better India with brighter prospects.