We have discussed academics in schools, relevance, and effectiveness of different curriculums in preparing students for higher education and have taken up the topics like teacher training and enhancing the learning outcomes in schools. We have discussed these subjects in the context of K-12 schooling. In this article, I have tried to take into account the shifting priorities of students and the resultant effect on conventional K-12 education, as we generally perceive it.
Picture a typical K-12 school with all its merits or limitations and you will find it hard to contest the fact that there exist students with different interests and varying degree of ambition and drive for achievement. A section of them fulfills the role of following the routine and do not show any visible inclination to prepare far in advance for the legendarily competitive examinations that secure seats in the institutes of higher education. Then there is a section of highly driven youngsters who are inclined, even conditioned, to think years ahead, they are the ones who presumably know exactly what they are going to do or be and work in order to eradicate all probabilities that can cause a shift in their plans. Where does the routine K-12 schooling fit in the plans of these ambitious ones?
It might seem that we are trying to analyze the trajectory of overachieving few here, but in fact, we are trying to track the trend where schools are being increasingly perceived as necessary but not sufficient for productive education by students, parents and even teachers.
We have to understand that we are not discussing creative or performing arts classes that students pursue after school hours. We are discussing a condition that might even qualify, from a purely academic perspective, as parallel schooling.
Supplementing school education
I was convinced that this is a thought-provoking issue when I came to know about an interesting trend where selected boarders are sent to coaching classes after school hours. Only the promising ones get this privilege. This is comparable to organizing a guest lecture on a daily basis for a selected few.
This sort of supplementation of education has many variants. Some schools invite tutors from the coaching institutes to teach a section of students in the campus itself after school hours. This particular practice is typically initiated for final year students and lasts two to three months.
This outsourcing of education raises questions even if school administration explains it as some sort of scholarship for bright students.
Supplementation is customarily for the weaker hence we have to take a big leap in logic here to understand the practice as supplementation. Simply put, it is rather discriminatory.
Boarders do not have the liberty to go out of the campus for long hours so to ensure that they are not disadvantaged the boarding school sponsors coaching for them.
This is a rare trend however when compared to the one where students go to the coaching institutes on their own volition with their parents pay for the classes.
How do schools see this development?
The teachers have the mandate to ‘finish the course’, prepare an internal assessment and record the grades. The best of the teachers admit that if the classroom teaching is not complemented with self-study, exceptional results are impossible. Those exceptional results include success in the competitive examinations. And there are students who believe that the classroom teaching is dispensable and they can compensate it with self-study and coaching classes.
The coaching classes are not just for the competitive exams but for board examinations of 10th and 12th. This is true for every board of education.
The case of government schools is understandable from the students’ point of view. There is a serious want of regularity and sincerity of teachers and these state board students have to take recourse of coaching classes. Interestingly, the teachers of the government schools used to run private tuitions until they were prohibited from doing so, at least in some states.
The case of private schools is intriguing; they charge considerably and have an adequate number of teachers and they are affiliated to national boards of education and they have 100 or near 100 percent results in the board exams. Still, the percentage of students who qualify competitive exams simultaneously with their board exams is minuscule. To qualify competitive examinations, it will not be an exaggeration to say that it has become customary to take a gap of a year or two for coaching and self-study.
The model of education 10 +2+3, 10+2+4, 10+2+5 practically becomes 10+2+1+3(4 or 5). If we calculate the years lost by simply multiplying it with millions of +2 students cum engineering, medical or integrated law aspirants it turns out to be a mind-boggling number.
This scenario can be explained by citing the fact that the seats in higher education are far lesser than required. And this is not just true in case of the professional degree but for undergraduate courses as well.
Well, whatever the cause, the effect on the schooling system is palpable. The K-12 schooling is bound to suffer because of the students are losing confidence in conventional classroom instruction. Some of the students use the time productively and most simply waste it.
Then there are relatively newer trends wherein students begin to prepare for these competitive exams as early as class 7th. Now what happens here is that at such a young age and early phase of schooling they tend to develop a sort of progressive mental withdrawal from the school environment and begin considering school little more than transit. This attitude crystallizes into non-participation in activities except the examinations. The practice cannot be condemned as there is no deviant behavior but proactivity and a vision of future and ambition. The issue here is that the role of the school is being reinterpreted and, in some cases, seen as irrelevant.
The number of schools, the statistics say is still lesser than needed and established schools are adding sections every fall.
Higher educational institutions are bound to take in crème de la crème. Schools must try to live up to the claims they make while they establish themselves and must have 21st-century markers in the infrastructure and not the calendars and diaries alone.
There is a minority of students, who begin to prepare for competitive exams that take place after class 12th including JEET, NEET, CLAT etc. The question is how our schools deal with a situation where for some students its instruction is bordering irrelevance. Are curricula synchronized with the syllabuses of these + 2 exams? These exams purportedly assess the academic acumen of that are justified to be asked for a student who has cleared his or her + 2 examinations, but we know with the number of competitors running in millions these tests become some of the toughest academic examinations in the world.
When students take to preparing for exams it is but obvious that the attendance and attention in the classroom become the earliest causalities. Teenage mind banks on the superiority of the teachers in the coaching institutes to rationalize their lack of participation in the classroom and especially in the subjects which are not in the syllabi of the competitive examinations they aspire to clear.
The push or the motivation does come from the teachers and then comes the image of brilliance that every teenager craves for. Extra attention to the children and prejudicially accepting that the minority attending the coaching classes are sincere, driven and others are just average. This creates an ability to divide in the classroom. The beneficiaries score high and dominate the interactions with their peers and many a time belittle the “teachers” by testing his acumen. When all of this transpires teachers develop an artificial closeness or turn into confidante of the students just to avoid embarrassment in the class.
There are certain schools that have experimented with specially designed material for preparation for examinations like IITJEE. No doubt, the schools that are adopting technology and genuinely qualified teachers significantly salvage the situation.
What are the students missing?
In our earlier article psychological cost of excellence, we have discussed the issue of undue pressure of ambition in some detail. The problem that we have put our finger upon the incidences of depression, social anxiety and neuroses, guilt and general social withdrawal in the said article.
In this article, we are dealing with a different issue where there is an element of self-motivation involved and no deviant behavior per se is apparent. In fact, we may be discussing model students after all.
It’s not the cell phones, music, truancy that we are dealing with here, it is an ambition to a fault that we are discussing. These students are prone to miss a lot throughout their years of schooling, which they think they would compensate for later.
The cultivated disdain for sports is one of the common signs. Besides that dramatics or for that matter, any other co-curricular or extra-curricular is perceived by the children with a hurry to prove that they are exceptional. Talent vanishes with time if it is not backed up by discipline and judgment and that can come about only after convincing that school is the last place where wastage of time occurs.
We may be criticized for suggesting the above; some may be convinced that it is a non-issue and raising it as one is pedantic even regressive. However, we believe that it is significant enough to deserve discussion and measures for the erosion of the confidence of students in school.
Nevertheless, we advocate the primacy of schooling over other media of learning because it’s not just about academics it is about to host of other characteristics that are important to be instilled in the teenagers.
There is a deafening silence on the issue. Are schools capable to accommodate the ambition of the students and make them confident about the schooling system and attend the classes and activities without the compulsion of minimum attendance? Have international curriculums succeeded in doing what they purportedly claim to do? Has the academic intensity of these international boards helped students do well in the competitive exams?
Founder & Consultant - School Serv
Vinod Kakumanu heads a team of school services professionals and is an independent commentator on Indian school education scenario. Vinod has assisted school promoters establish 35+ schools besides providing ancillary services to over 1000 schools across India. He envisions a future where quality education is made available to every child of the country. The focus he places on the quality of the deliverables and customer satisfaction has made him renowned in the field of K-12 school education.