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Perking up school education

Perking up school education

In a significant move, the Central government has asked all states and Union Territories to cap the weight of school bags for each class and do away with homework for class I-II students. The Delhi government has already banned school homework for class I & II students and the Gujarat government has issued a notice to the schools in the state asking them to limit the weight of school bags to maximum 10 per cent of the student's own weight. Educationists have largely welcomed the government's decision and said that it would help restore the 'lost childhood'. While the government's move to make school education more children-friendly is a laudable step, there remain many other areas where the government needs to make informed choices in favour of children. The homework given by schools is one of those areas that especially need to be looked into. As of now, school students are given homework in all the subjects prescribed to them, and this is beside classroom studies. Given the paucity of time with students who have to spend a minimum of two hours commuting from home to school and back home, the load of homework proves to be too much for the young students to appreciate the value of the exercise that homework intends to be. Since parents also usually don't have enough time to spend on their kids' education, the homework is actually done with the help of tutors, which is practically an extension of classroom studies. A load of classroom studies and tuitions make the children overworked. They don't find enough time to play with their friends or engage in sports or pursue a hobby. If we take into account the time that an average student spends on getting ready for school, commuting to the school and back home, and the time spent in the school, a child spends no less than eight hours continuously on matters related to their school. If we add the time spent on tuition, the school students spend nearly 10 hours a day on their studies. This is as good as an adult putting in eight hours at a workplace. Clearly, the current system of school education is much too focused on academics than on the overall growth of the children into educated individuals. Most schools have an exhaustive curriculum that prescribes a number of books in different streams and along with the books, children are expected to carry a notebook for each subject and together, they increase the weight of the school bag significantly. A major shortcoming of the current system of education is that the children do not find enough time to pursue their own interests or spend quality time with their parents. They are often found to be low on energy, short-tempered and obsessed with gadgets such as smartphones with an Internet connection. Many schools have introduced tablet computers in their bid to adopt modern teaching methods and reduce the weight of the schoolbag but the exercise has actually brought the children closer to the screen. Long hours of exposure to these gadgets are causing health complications among children. Irritation, stress in the eyes and brain, neglect of routine work such as brushing teeth and taking the bath or eating on time are some of the more palpable ill-effects of such exposure to computer and smartphones. From the parents' point of view, despite spending a good sum of money, children are not coming up as per their expectations. From the policymakers' point of view, the school education is not delivering uniform results; the outcome of learning still remains a gray area.

Both the school management and the government together need to find a suitable alternative to the current education system. The new solutions need to be creative and value-based that does not give stress to the young body and mind that the children have, and that grooms them into educated and purposeful individuals. But these reforms should be carried out in a slow and phase-wise manner so that the basic structure of the current system, which may have some good elements as well, is not disrupted all of a sudden and in a drastic manner. It is heartening that the government has begun looking at the education system from the very base. Similar reforms need to be brought in higher education as well by introducing skill-oriented programmes in conjunction with the existing academic and theory-based learning. And in doing so, it would be wise to explore what all the students in India used to do through the ages. We must not fail to learn from India's glorious past as far as education is concerned.

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