A Hyderabad school has invited social media ire for putting up a topper list on billboard. Why is that concerning, you ask? Because the toppers in question were of Nursery, Junior and Senior KG classes. Yup, you read that right, as if revering kids who top board exams or entrance tests for professional courses wasn’t enough, we now have kids who barely understand what words like topper or exam fully mean, become the poster boys and girls for them. Is this really where we want education to head in our country? Why are we okay with peers and schools burdening even pre-schoolers with the pressure to top in school exams? Do they not understand the kind of impact it could have on their mental health?

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • A Hyderabad school put up a billboard with Nursery, Junior and Senior KG toppers.
  • Is this really where we want education to head in our country?
  • Should four-year-olds have to feel the stress of meeting parental expectations?
  • Do we realise the kind of damage such pressure could do to young students’ mental health?

Why are we okay with peers and schools burdening even pre-schoolers with the pressure to top in their exams? Do they not understand the kind of impact it could have on their mental health?

I remember reading a post from an acquaintance on social media, where she had shared images of her young son with a gold medal. She went on to write how their child had made his mommy and day proud by securing the first position in his LKG exams and how they had such high hopes from him. This was a four-year-old we are talking about, and his parents were already daydreaming about how he would make them proud in future by bringing scholastic glory home. Such a mindset isn’t uncommon among Indian parents who equate scholastic success with a bright future and thus comfortable life laced with fame and money for their ward. But to laden children so young with such expectations, to pressure them to top in exams is cruel, even by Indian parenting standards.

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What do parents and schools aim to achieve by boasting of these kids’ success in school exams? Our education system is rooted in rote learning, a format that doesn’t encourage students to gain knowledge, which doesn’t equip them properly for life as adults. And yet we go on proudly endorsing this system, judging students as intelligent or dull, simply on their capacity to memorise subjects mindlessly and regurgitate it in exams. Can one call that education?

What do parents and schools aim to achieve by boasting of these kids’ success in nursery exams?

But even for students who do well in this rigged and fractured system, life isn’t easy. Being good in studies only means that your peers will have high hopes from you. You must top in every school exam because clearly you have potential, so might as well exploit it to the fullest. You must crack competitive exams, secure a seat in a reputed college and repeat the process again. If you want to see the impact of parental pressure on children to success scholastically, just stand outside any coaching centre in our country, and you’ll see haplessness written in bold across juvenile faces. The result is that we have successful and what we call intelligent students, but broken individuals.

The 2015 NCRB report says that student suicides account for 6.7 percent of suicides in India. Also, failure in examination was accounted to be the cause of suicide in two percent of all the cases. The statistics are alarming since things have only gotten worse, as students are being pressured to excel very early on in their school life, while we continue to ignore their mental well-being. Four-year-olds shouldn’t have to worry about scoring a rank in their class. What kind of childhood will such kids have, when there is a constant chatter of making mommy and daddy proud around them, from such an early age?

While the entire Indian education system needs a makeover, we need to draw a line in the current set up as well. Little kids shouldn’t be paraded for their scholastic “achievements.” Adults can keep the virtue of competitiveness for themselves, but our children deserve a carefree childhood sans the burden of our misplaced expectations.

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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