By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee
When I see the modern kids in this jet age, I can’t help thinking about those days which I left far behind. In those days children had simple and uncomplicated life—and they were satisfied with so little. In that age televisions were unknown and unheard of. turally the children of that era were not even aware of television sets, VCRs or any other expensive gadgets, with which modern children are familiar. Little girls in that age used to play for hours together with crude home-made dolls—just little bits of rags and some coloured threads. But what a fantasy they created with them—brides, grooms, parties and all that lot, besides cooking pots and pans. Their world consisted of imagiry things and it was a happy world. How lacking in imagition the modern kids are in comparison to the children of earlier times.
Little boys were happy with kites, marbles and all those inexpensive knick-kcks. Wouldn’t the modern kids think it weird if we offered them these play things? They have got expensive electronic toys, laptops, video games, dolls with complete wardrobes and everything that money can get. All these things cost the earth. turally the children of rich parents find the world at their feet. They do not have to create a fairy land—it is bought for them in the market.
When I told one little girl that we did not have TV or VCR in our young age, she simply looked shocked and thought I was pulling her legs. Modern children perhaps cannot even imagine a life without these luxuries. One little boy asked me if we were not terribly bored in those days. What did we do? He asked me curiously.
His question set me thinking. Were we really bored? Actually we never felt the want of these modern costly gadgets—perhaps because we did not have even an idea of them. We did not even have a telephone—can you imagine it, dear reader? And what you do not know, turally you do not need. And we were always happy and content—since our expectations were so meager.
Children of this modern age have got lots of things, which their counterparts in the past could not even imagine. Yet I do not think that they are to be envied, rather they are to be pitied. I really feel sorry for these little children of the scientific age. What a lot of simple pleasure they seem to have missed. Their lives are so mechanical and so full of contradictions and complications that they have faced continuous struggle.
In the field of education also so many changes have taken place. The entire education system of the country has drastically changed. Until a couple of decades back the parents were not so much anxious regarding the education of their children. The kids stayed at home till they completed five years and the parents taught the child to read and write in mother tongue with perhaps a little bit of English and some elementary lessons in numbers to make them acquainted with arithmetic.
In fact, in earlier times education started only at the age of five and then they were admitted to some primary schools according to the choice of the parents. It was not at all difficult to get admission in any school they wished. There were only a few schools and they were not at all expensive. Parents were never afraid of the spectre of school admission.
But as we see, today the things are quite different. The age for starting education of children is diminishing year after year. In fact today the situation is such that the moment the baby can lisp a few words, he/she has to learn alphabets as preparations for being admitted to school. The parents start making frenzied search for better schools by the time the child is three years old—sometimes even before that. So it is all work and no play for a little child with loads of lessons to study. They need so many books that their thin tender backs get bent for carrying that heavy satchel. As a young mother remarked bitterly that the children should carry books in a wheelbarrow instead of a school bag
At the age of three, or even before that, a child starts his education. The parents turally look for reputed schools. But only the lucky ones mage to get admission into the selected schools. Others have to be satisfied with the lesser known ones. That is why various schools have sprouted up in every nook and corner of the city.
But getting into a school at a very young age implies the abrupt ending of childhood. School means studies and studies mean long and sleepy hours of scanning and memorizing lessons. In every school, even in nursery classes tons of home works are given to the child. The heavy workload destroys the tural gaiety of the children. Heavy load of home work and parental pressure on studies drive the childhood away from him before time. A fun-filled and sunny childhood is no longer a reality due to the present educatiol system. It is very sad really. The children have to remain busy with books, lessons, tutors and home work from the early morning throughout the day. That is why some children resent the parents and feel that too much hard work is demanded from their frail bodies and tender minds by the parents. The parents tend to think that lessons are very important for the future of the children and do not think that the little children may crumble drown under the back-breaking load of books and under the pressure of lessons and home work.
Childhood no longer appears on the scene with examitions chasing the kids right from the tender age of three. So it dies a quiet death even before blossoming. In earlier times the children had sufficient time to play and enjoy the tural things. They loved to watch chirping birds in the garden, sweet, charming butterflies sitting on the colourful flowers, trees, flowers and so many other things of ture. They also watched the rainbow in joy and got immense pleasure by watching glow worms in the evening, looking like so many stars. Their joy was derived from simple things of ture, which also happened to be their educator. Those kids of the past had their first lessons from ture. The children hugely enjoyed their lessons from ture and were very healthy and happy.
I do not say that formal education is not necessary for the child. It is very necessary for success in life. In today’s world formal degrees are indispensable for a successful future. I merely say that the age of a child and his interest as well as ability have to be considered before admitting him to a school. In the present era it can be noticed that the parents want their child to know everything. The child has to shine in the examition. Besides studies, he has to learn swimming, music, painting, sports and many other things. That is, he has to be a Jack of everything, but master of none, as it is not possible for a child to excel in every sphere.
Parents should certainly encourage the child to study and do well, but they must not push him too hard. Getting the first position in the class should not be treated as a means to measure the intelligence of the child. Actually securing the first position does not necessarily prove the brilliance of the child. Even if he does not come out first, he may be a very intelligent and brilliant child. Actually excessive parental pressure does more harm than good to the child.
It is true that they have to go to school for education. The schools also play a big role in the development of the persolity of the children. The class rooms have to be pleasant and the teachers have to be affectiote, considerate as well as strict. For teaching the nursery children they have to use the play way method, so that the children find their lessons pleasant. Private tuition is another mece, which hampers the mental development of the child. Today private tuition has become an essential part of education. Rightly or wrongly the parents believe that their child cannot do well in the examition without private tuition. So the poor child has to bear the burden of diverse private tutors in his busy schedule. Private tuition may be necessary for success in examition. But too much spoon-feeding is not good for health. Because of private tuition the child does not apply his own intelligence to solve some problem. As a consequence he loses his self-confidence and ability to face adversity. He does not find time to enjoy life and his childhood. As a result childhood disappears even before he is aware of it.
Let the children develop their hidden talent freely and let them decide what they want to do. It is no use badgering a child to do something in which he is not the least interested. The mother might give birth to him—but he is not an extension of the mother. Once he is born, he is a separate individual. There is no earthly reason why he should toe the line set by the parents. He is not a mechanical toy to dance to the tune of another.
It may be difficult for a mother to accept the fact that though her child was a part of her before his birth, he becomes a separate individual once he is born. Along with the growth of his body, his mind also develops. I think, once he grows up, he should be given the opportunity to decide for himself what he would like to do. After all, he has to develop as a person—a whole person—hasn’t he?
Childhood is very important in a person’s life. It should be very happy and pleasant. It is the parents duty to see that he or she does not lose childhood before time. In childhood new ideas are formed and the child should develop mentally and physically. Only a happy childhood will make him a complete person and he would be able to face the future boldly and confidently. But if the childhood is lost before time, he may turn into a contentious person with conflicting ideas, which may lead him to disastrous consequences. For a successful and contented life childhood must be happy. As they say, “Morning shows the day”— doesn’t it? In the same way childhood shows the future of an individual. So let childhood be a very pleasant phase of life. Don’t you think so, dear reader?
(The writer is a former Head, Department of Philosophy, Cotton College, Guwahati)