The tests of life aren't conducted in examination halls
School examinations in India have always been synonymous with a lot of stress and anxiety. And when it is particularly in the context of Grade 10 or 12 Board examinations, the levels of stress in most cases, rise exponentially. Though schools, parents, Central & State Governments and all other stakeholders in education are becoming increasingly proactive about de-stressing students, the genesis of the problem lies in our classrooms and more so in our culture. A look at the school grades isn’t the best and only way to judge the caliber of a child. Indeed, what it provides in most cases, is an archaic and myopic view, which regretfully, is akin to judging an elephant’s strength by its ability to climb a tree.
The approach to change this view has to begin at home first. Interestingly, parents of the current generation of school-going children are primarily in the age bracket of 28-45 years and their experiences and memories of schools, teachers and parents are very different from what the demands of 21 st century school learners are. Education till about two decades ago, was more about learning how to earn a livelihood and pursue a flourishing career. The very paradigm of education has shifted now, making it more of a means to learn about how to be prepared to face and enjoy the beautiful journey called ‘life’. And to enjoy, one has to eliminate or at least mitigate the possibility of stress. Parents have to be prepared to accept this evolution that makes their generation different from that of their children, so that schools and other stakeholders can concurrently and harmoniously work in the same direction.
The American school education system is remarkably well-aligned to prosper the values of 21 st century school learning, compared to many other school education systems worldwide. The American school system has made a formal and organized entry in India, thanks to Northwest Accreditation Commission (NWAC), USA which made a foray in the Indian school education sector in 2011. The first few challenges and learnings for NWAC leadership in India were related to the ‘result-oriented’ structure of Indian schools. As Mr. Seyddudin, Director of NWAC Regional Office in India recalls “Most of the members of school leadership who I had a conversation with during the early years of NWAC in India, were more concerned about how the American School System could help students achieve better grades in the examinations. They were generally of the view that if parents find a school system more ‘scoring’ for their children, it would be easily welcomed and embraced. Our focus though, was more on empowering children to learn better and not just preparing them to score higher. We have always believed that higher scores are a natural by-product of better learning and this is what we have always emphasized upon.”
NWAC offers schools the opportunity to offer American High School Program to students, the American school equivalent of Senior Secondary Program in India. When one looks deeper into where this program differentiates itself from its peers, one understands that it offers more comprehensive and continuous learning to students, coupled with small year-round assessments. NWAC is thus working towards eliminating the practice of putting too much emphasis or value on one single examination. As Seyduddin remarks “When you break down the entire examination pattern into smaller and less significant components, it feels more like a routine for students. Our focus is on inspiring students to learn regularly in the classrooms and take the examinations as a ‘test of how to improve’ and not as a ‘test of how to score’. It is more like motivating a player to score better and enjoy his success, while learning from failures consistently. Taking examinations feels like going to school. It doesn’t really stand out as a task for students and thankfully as I have seen, students have started to enjoy them now. We must prepare our next generations to appreciate, learn, create and stay inspired.”
As a parent of a school-going student, if one has to remember the first memories that come to mind, they would be regarding friends and teachers for most of us. What most parents would rememberer is about the ‘people’ who mattered to them and ironically we still have no dedicated courses related to people management, team-building or developing ‘people’ skills at the school level. In a world that is far more connected and shrinking by the minute, information and knowledge are freely available and easily transferable. Surprisingly, we are still focused on motivating our children to make sure they are primarily concentrating on getting good grades. It’s time we open our eyes and accept, that life is about a lot more and a lot different than just pen and paper exams.
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