Sri Lanka’s education authorities are yet to address the stress issue associated with exams despite Minister of Education Akila Viraj Kariyawasam stating that moves are underway to reduce the subjects for the Ordinary Level (OL) Exam from nine to six.
He has said that one of the reasons behind bringing about a change to the education system is that the syllabus is outdated. Many wise men however believe that the real reason behind children struggling at school is due the outdated thinking of educational authorities, teachers and most parents.
Just the other day there was a striking post on social media which said, ‘A child educated only at school is an uneducated child’. This is why most bright students are masters at exams, but resemble fish out of water when life throws challenges at them.
The Minister has also said that the workload on children studying for the OL Exam is to be reduced to ensure that they meet the challenges of a changing world. He also said that the change would also help open up vast new fields and make children happier.
We saw how the focus of parents shifted towards children on October 1 unlike on other days. The occasion marked ‘World Children’s Day’ and kids were pampered with meals and drinks bought at fast food outlets. But is this what children need; a single day set aside for the year where they can be extremely happy?
What about the other 364 days?
A few years ago we heard of a death in Norwood when a schoolgirl by the name of Arseratnam Dayalani hung herself after failing the OL Exam for the second time.
There have been other records of children committing suicide and or making attempts at taking their lives due to exam pressure. The solution to this problem doesn’t entirely lie on reducing the subjects. Something has to be done about the attitude of elders who brand ‘slow learners’ as failures. The worst form of punishment is given to these kids when teachers reject them by making the statement ‘teaching them is a waste of time’.
Renowned poet Khalil Gibran had no schooling during the initial years of his life. Later when he entered school he excelled at art. Gibran went on to write some of the most inspiring poems which relate to children. In the poem ‘Your children’ Gibran gives a strong message to teachers and parents. These lines in the poem ‘You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts’ are epic.
We’re killing our children even before they think of taking their lives. So much is stuffed into their brains inside classrooms that teachers have for a moment forgotten that only the lessons that remain in their memory can be termed as real knowledge.
Most teachers know that they are bad teachers when they meet their chargers two to three years after parting with them and realise during a quick chit-chat that they have not acquired anything beyond the chapters of the books they finished with them.
Teachers have to create that interest for a subject. How they would succeed at that is a big question given that these are times where marks are considered as the yardstick defining success.
Just the other day President Maithripala Sirisena sounded a warning by stating that parents should pay attention to the challenges faced by children when he attended the prize giving of a leading school in Balapitiya.
The challenges that children face aren’t confined to the classroom and books. They must be shaped to be well-rounded. That’s why Gibran goes on to say in the poem ‘Your Children’ that ‘You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forward’. Push children so that they move forward, but not too hard because they may fall!