What’s Wrong with Secondary School – Urmila’s Story

Urmila, the little chirpy girl

Urmila was a chirpy little girl who liked to play with her friends and her little doll. Her favourite game was playing teacher. She used to gather her friends and teach them her favourite subject Math and English. Her parents were so proud of her and used to point out how she usually got all the sums correct and sometimes to show off her talents they used to make her recite tables. She also loved to recite poetry in all the languages she learnt at school. Everyone was sure she had a bright future.
Her father was a cab driver who earned enough to send her to a good Convent School where it is believed she would get the best education. Urmila had been quite a good student till the 5th standard but for some reason her grades started falling. In the 7th she almost completely stopped taking interest in studies. She would play with her dolls and fought with her mother to avoid sitting down for studies. She had by now stopped playing teacher.

Where does the problem with education lie?

Urmila sit down to study or no television for you today”, said her mother.
Urmila shrugged. She would just throw a tantrum and within some time they would let her watch her favourite tele-serial.
Her parents started pleading with her and shouting at her. They did whatever they could to try and make Urmila work harder at studies. But for Urmila studies had become boring. It was a common phase among school going children the parents exclaimed throwing their hands up. But for something so common it was surprising there was no cure.
“Mr Shetty too was complaining about his son”, exclaimed Urmila”s father. “But he doesn’t have an answer to this problem either.”
There was a time when Urmila used to love going to school. School was where her friends were. She loved to play with her friends while waiting for her dad to pick her up. 
Now she hated going to school because nobody played with her after school. Everyone had tuitions. She used to sit sadly near the gate waiting for her dad. Where once she used to make her dad wait for her she now requested him to come early. 
“Why do you come late dad,” she cried. “If you cannot come in time let me come with the school bus.”

What could be the reason for the change?

Although Urmila’s parents noticed the change in her attitude they did not notice the change in her environment. She had to study more subjects now than she had to earlier. There were more things to remember. Teachers did not explain the lessons at school and tuition teachers were interested in completing homework and giving more practice. Urmila’s chirpy spirit was being killed. Her parents too reminded her she was growing. She had to be responsible. She tried to help around the house but that was not enough. Responsibility meant getting more marks than the neighbors’ son or daughter.
Will it be a surprise if she fails in standard 9? If that happened the school would simply hand her a leaving certificate because the school doesn’t want to spoil it’s average. Schools really don’t care. They have enough students to take care of and showcase as example of good teaching. Even if they are doing a bad job of it.

The solution to disinterested children

Schools have to change the way they approach subjects. We have to change the way we approach subjects. Most of history is important to the one who is interested in it. It is a subject that had been much politicised anyway. What if we have history for information only. Maybe just a period that shows history in audio visual format. That’s it. No questions or exams should be required. Similarly, math is a vast subject. Why not teach basic math till the 7th standard.
Standard 7 should be board exam. Till then students should learn to read, write and talk languages. Do basic math, know basic science and know some information from geography, civics, history, economics and even home science. Enough to help students to tackle most careers. For example trigonometry or geometry is not going to help a student who will decide to take up a career in finance or journalism.

But what about engineering?

To tackle this problem students should be given psychometric tests and counseling so that they can choose their future occupations. Once they have chosen they can jump right into the kind of studies that will help to be good at what they want to become. So students who need trigonometry can opt for it  and students who need chemistry can opt for that subject.
Keeping a buffer for students who cannot decide or who think they have chosen wrong we should have an open system of studies so that they can join whenever they realise their calling.
Today we have schools that have academics. These schools have physical education periods to offer holistic growth of children. Why can’t we have sports schools that have academics or maybe dance or drama schools that also teaches academics. So after std 7 children go to a school with their respective callings and still go on learning new and better things they would love to learn. Remember Steve Jobs dropped out from his regular studies and attended calligraphy.
Education should be encouraged at every stage and age and no one should feel that he or she is too late to learn anything.