Test for Tots
By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee
The last part of the year is always a matter of hope and anxiety for the young parents as well as for the students, since this phase of the year brings the dreaded examitions. Only a couple of months back the students had a very nice and enjoyable time, since it was the festive season. They enjoyed the Puja holidays and the Diwali and they nearly forgot all about the examitions. Then by November they became aware of the bitter truth that life is not all pleasure, there are lots of pain as well. As Yevgeny Yevtushenko remarked, “Life is a rainbow which also includes black”. For the young parents it is the time for nightmares, because they are terribly worried regarding the admission of their little 3-year old toddler in some good school.
It is the same story every year. From the month of November the young parents start collecting forms for admission from various schools. They are not sure which school would filly favourably consider the admission of their three-plus kid. All the parents cherish dreams about the future of their little children. turally they want the best for the child. But it is easier said than done. Though Guwahati can now boast of several elite and expensive schools, getting a seat in one of them is not easy. In the past, decades back, one could admit his child in any school he wished. It is true that there was hardly an English-medium school in that era and there were no aristocratic schools. Private schools did not flourish in that age. There were only a limited number of schools and all the schools were supposed to be of the same standard and those ordiry insignificant schools by today’s standard produced a large number of geniuses, whose mes are still known to the people all over the country. Actually people in that age were not glamour-conscious nor were they over-ambitious and they were satisfied with whatever they could get.
In this age there seems to be an undeclared competition amongst the elite schools and only the parents from the affluent and aristocratic section may aspire after such schools. But getting a seat in these reputed schools is not easy and it has become a Herculean task. In fact, it may be easier to scale Everest than getting a seat in the school of your choice. Hence the parents with little children cannot remain sanguine at such times. But the little heroes and the heroines in this strenuous exercise remain totally unconcerned. They are not the least bothered about admission. But for the parents these are very difficult times.
I believe that all the schools in the city except the CBSC affiliated ones start their session in January. Many of the schools have already closed their admission process, but some have kept it open till now, since they do not fall into the first category and hence are not in demand. Young mothers of those little children, who have not been fortute enough to get admission in the reputed and aristocratic school of their choice are turally tense and are possibly spending sleepless nights in agony.
The little kids are having their first taste of a test. The admission forms of some famed city schools are getting sold like hot cakes and the parents are keeping their fingers crossed. CBSC affiliated schools are getting popular with a section of parents and possibly there is still enough time for admission into these schools. turally the parents are in a cross road of hope and despair. Who knows what is in store for them.
The parents want their little child to be admitted in the best English-medium school in the city, and hence parents have to wrestle with numbers and alphabets to succeed in the admission test and the whole household revolves around the little child. Every trick at their disposal, from bribery to cajolery to threat, is applied to keep a recalcitrant child glued to the study table. turally these little kids object to the unilateral direction of the parents, which they consider to be unfair. They have no idea of an admission test nor are they bothered about it. How can they possibly sit with books in the stuffy room, when ture beckons them outside to play? For them ture is an open book and they can learn everything spontaneously from the book of ture. That sort of learning is very pleasant for them and there is only laughter and no tears. But parents have other ideas and their notion of learning is different from that of the children.
In this modern age the education of the child starts from the moment he can lisp a few words. In the past the education of the child started when he completed five years. I suppose that was the right age for the education to start. And there was no competition regarding the school for admission, which we witness at the present era. At present it can be seen that it is a matter of pride for the parents to send the child to the school even before he completes three years. They are rarely conscious of the undue pressure and nervousness they put on a toddler to bolster their own egoism. Despite their unconditiol and forceful support for the implementation of regiol language in schools and colleges, most of the parents make a beeline for the English-medium schools in the city. There is a vast difference between what they say and what they do.
The elite schools of their choice do not have unlimited seats, since their rooms are not elastic—and in any case, possibly they earn a tidy amount by just selling admission forms. Out of hundreds of applicants only a small number get admitted into these prestigious schools in the city. Noticing the lop-sided preference of the parents towards the English-medium schools, some enterprising persons have started a flourishing business by opening English-medium schools in every nook and corner of the city. A sizeable number of such establishments have cropped up in the city like mushrooms. You can find them everywhere like paan shops. You cannot take a few steps without falling over an English-medium school. In fact, if you have a couple of rooms to spare, you can very well start an English-medium nursery school. Quality does not matter to the parents. The very me “English-medium School” acts like a talisman in the minds of the parents. They do not consider the fact that all that glitters is not gold.
I often see some coloured leaflets fluttering out from some news paper, when I spread it out to get the news. These pamphlets advertise lots of things—from shops to goods to schools. In some of these brochures we may find the mes of some newly opened nursery schools with colourful attractive pictures. The pictures are really alluring and there are numerous promises to provide a very comfortable, joyous and educative atmosphere in the school. Any parent may be easily lured to these schools by the alluring pictures and the wonderful promises. But the proof of the pudding is in eating, as they say. I believe that the parents should verify the veracity of the real situation in the school. Mere promises and display in colourful paper is not enough. We have to be sure about the actuality, because it is a matter of the child’s welfare, which cannot be taken at face value.
You cannot help feeling sorry for the distracted parents. They turally want the best for their child, though their best may not be good enough for the rest of the country. Some of our reputed schools hold admission test for the toddlers—perhaps to facilitate their process of selection and rejection. I wonder how they judge the merit of a three year old child. The reason may be that the school authority is aware that they cannot possibly admit all the applicants and so the admission test becomes necessary to select some and reject others. Then there will be no scope for accusation or counter-accusation. In some schools, I hear, that parents too have to be interviewed before the child is admitted, which appears to be rather inexplicable. I wonder why parents are interviewed in certain schools. In our country there are many illiterate people, but I believe that their children have the perfect right to get education. Hence I do not know what kind of interview the parents have to go through. May be that the school authorities merely want to assess the fincial position of the parents to find out if they would be able to pay the exorbitant fees charged by the schools.
On the day of the test your heart will go out to the howling kids, dragged by the mothers to the examition hall, since the little children have not the least idea about the meaning of an admission test. Now if you ask me how on earth a three-year old infant’s merit is tested through an examition, I must confess that I have not the foggiest idea. I remember an incident which occurred some years back. I once accompanied a young mother to some reputed school in the city. Her little child was to be examined for admission on that day. The poor lady was extremely nervous and she ask me if I could accompany her to the school to lend her kind of moral support. I readily agreed, because it would have been sheer cruelty to have refused to help a mother in distress.
On arrival I saw that the school complex was full of young anxious parents, mostly mothers. I think fathers usually keep away from these highly-strung gatherings with the excuse that they have some important meeting or something else to do. In the school complex we found that initially the children were happy and they were playing with one another. I think that for the little children there are no strangers and they became friends within minutes. Apparently they were not aware that the ogre of examition was just knocking at the door. They were running around happily. Then it happened and the atmosphere changed from laughter to tears. The bells started ringing, announcing that the time for examition had arrived. Some teachers came to take away the children to the examition hall. For the kids it was a rude interference in their jollification and they showed their displeasure by crying loudly. The teachers had to forcibly drag the howling children to the examition centre. It was really a heart-rending sight. We waited outside and the young mothers were sick with worry. I did try to comfort them with soothing words.
After some time the kids came out running, as their ordeal was over. The lady, whom I accompanied, looked anxiously for her child in the midst of that swelling number of boisterous kids. Then she saw him running towards her with a joyous expression in his face. There were no more tears for him or for the others. The mother fondly offered him a bar of chocolate. With an ear-splitting shrill cry of “whoopee”, he stched the chocolate from the mother, peeled the wrapper and started munching it. Other mothers also had brought the sweets and other eatables for their children. It was a scene of joy and bonhomie. And then came the jarring note.
My friend asked her son what they were asked to do in the test. Munching the chocolate the child replied that they were asked to colour an apple. My friend was happy and so were the others. Apparently they had already taught their children to colour an apple and other things. An apple was of course an obvious choice. My friend asked her son which colour he used for the apple. The solemn and the nonchalant reply was “all”. He had apparently used the whole lot of crayons he had on the apple. The other children also possibly did the same as far as I could make out. My imagition boggled at the vision of all those apples in such riot of colours. I could not help smiling at the thought. But the parents were not amused.
For the young mothers these tests are a matter of life and death, as if the whole future of the child depends on these tests. Alphabets, numbers and rhymes jostle one another in their tender heads and tears flow like a stream of water. Then the day of the test arrives too soon to the horror of the parents and the children remain totally unconcerned. On the day when the results are announced and the list of the successful candidates eligible for admission is displayed, it is party time for some and depressing time for others. If the child fails the admission test, it is the end of the world for the hopeful mothers. If her neighbour’s child mages to obtain the coveted seat, while her own son does not, jealousy gws her soul and she spends her days in depression and utter humiliation. She feels that because of her child’s failure, she has denigrated to a lower position, while her neighbour has risen to a superior status. In this struggle for one upmanship, the mothers rarely spare a thought for the innocent victims of grown-up rivalry—as the child could not care less as to whether he got the seat or not.
In fact, the mothers should realise that these tests do not really prove the child’s intelligence or merit or anything like that. These little children have a streak of obsticy in them. It is a child’s ture to do what he wishes to do. None can force him to do something against his will. Hence these examitions are no way to test the merit of a little child.
A child of three is not aware of the significance of a test. There is really no reason for a mother to get disheartened, if her child is denied a seat in the school, supposed to be the best in her view. The education of a child does not really depend only on a sophisticated school. For me all the schools, whether glamorous or unglamorous, are of the same standard in the matter of education. A child’s education really starts at home and it is the mother whose coaching counts in the long run. She is the one to help the child with loads of homework, given by the teacher in the classroom. If a school is as good as it is claimed, then why are private tutors required for the students? Actually it is the mother who does all the work and the school takes all the credit. Above all, self-help is the best help and the child must make the effort to shine in life. But a three-year old toddler should not be pushed too hard, else all the efforts of the mother will boomerang on her. Let him learn in easy stages without any ill feeling for others. The parents should try to make him not only a successful executive with very good salary, but a good human being as well. That is the goal of right education.