Getting up at 4 every morning with the constant reminder of not being a kid anymore; rushing to school without entirely understanding Kepler’s laws; starting an exam with ‘-5’ already marked on the answer sheet for being late; listening to teachers ‘motivate’ students by asking them to mug up answers; standing in the chemistry lab for hours wondering how to analyse a salt; getting home tired, only to run to tuitions; returning home at 9, not to get some well-deserved sleep, but rather to prepare for cycle tests, write assignments and finish homework. It’s exhausting. It’s also the life of a school student in the 21st century.

Up until class 10, everything is given to a student on a platter. Trigonometry was actually fun. Though the pressure to score marks existed even then, it was much easier to do so. Students were still allowed to have fun. But class 11 is a jump that no one is prepared for. Fun Fact: even though I passed 10th with outstanding marks, I haven’t passed a single chemistry exam throughout class 11.

To motivate or demotivate — that is the question
On the first day of school, our chemistry teacher, accompanied by a mirthless smile, made an announcement to the class: “11th is no piece of cake; it is impossible to pass in chemistry and you all will never pass even if you work every day. Can’t wait to see you all in my coaching class!” How is this motivating?

When a teacher says to a class of students that they’ll never improve, how is it possible to feel comfortable about that particular subject? Has it ever been proved that fear is the best way to entice 16-year-olds to give it all they’ve got? Because my teacher’s words only demotivated me; it made me give up before I even tried, as it offered no room to excel. The only ones who do thrive in such situations are the gods of conceptual basics, superstars of tuition classes or those with excellent rote learning skills.

Every student has potential, more than they’ll ever know; but the stress, pressure and demotivation which cloud a student provides them no space to explore this potential. We need some breathing space; we need some entertainment. We are children after all, and not rote learning robots.

A school’s assets are its students; every parent’s assets are their children. Both want their kids to be moulded to perfection. The constant pressure from school and the stress to fulfill parents’ wishes corrode a student’s identity day-by-day. Apart from the three who top each class, there are several other students who matter too — what about their interests and aspirations?

Are we just another brick in the wall?
Students need to be able to breathe! Morning till evening, we study math, physics, chemistry and biology, and multiply that by five for every day we spend at school; add some tuition hours to it, plus the pressure of having to excel in these subjects at all times despite the fear being fed to us constantly, and even the most exciting topic can start to feel daunting and dull. Practical understanding needs to be valued more than mugging. The system needs to reward students for ‘applying’ Gauss Law rather than ‘stating’ it.

For every student, the issue is different. Some are affected by studies, some by teachers, some by parents and some others by learned worthlessness. The solution to each student’s problems can never be stated by a third person — only they can help themselves.

But, a teacher has the ability to create interest in a student, and evaluate their potential. Hundred hours of tuition cannot make up for one teacher’s ability to make a subject appealing to the students. When there is no interest, there will be no growth. Parents too need to understand this, and not mindlessly send their kids to tuition classes which don’t positively impact their understanding, interest or ability to score marks.

“This too shall pass,” as they say. But is that how one’s years in school are meant to be? Because, albeit school and its systems haven’t been my top interest in all these 14 years, deep down I still know, years down the lane, I will look back and want to say, “Ahh! School days were the best days…”
or will I?

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