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April, 2012:

A school of thought

The schools are closed for the long summer vacation. Which, quite obviously, as any student getting into 10th or 12th standard will tell you, is the period for the hard slog of studies.

For, once the schools reopen, these board-exams-appearing-students will have no time for anything, including studies, because much of their time will be spent listening to teachers dutifully telling them that they should not waste their time on anything else. If the teachers actually stop the ditty of ‘buck up, the public exam is tough’, I think they can finish the entire portion of 10th/12th in four straight days.

But these days they don’t teach anything in 10th or 12th standards. As far as I can gauge, this is what happens in classes 9 to 12 in most schools in these parts:

9th and 11th standards — Students are told on a daily basis that they cannot afford to relax, as the next year is Board Exams!

10th and 12th standards — Students are told on a daily basis they cannot afford to relax like they did the previous year.

In the face of such relentless pressure, it is a matter of a great fortune that this country still hasn’t seen the emergence of student Maoist gangs specialising solely in the kidnap of teachers (Possible news: The UPA government was faced with a fresh crisis today after a group of higher secondary teachers were abducted with the kidnappers making a strong demand for totally setting free calculus and algebra from all school texts. In a swift response, the Manmohan Singh government has appointed a high-powered committee to hold talks with Calculus).

But one reason why such a thing hasn’t happened could be that the students hardly have any energy for that. For, on an average, a 10th/12th standard student has more tests to write in a week than there are IPL matches in an entire month. (Those who are wailing that Tests are dying should look at the domestic calendar of a 12th standard student).

Or probably, the students haven’t come back from the tuition classes. But these days, luckily, tuitions are prescribed for only two sets of students:

1) Below-average students, so that they can become above-average.

2) Above-average students, so that they don’t become below-average.

If schools have become the place where students are endlessly asked to write tests that help them prepare for the Board Exams, then tuition centres are the place where students are asked to write tests in preparation for the tests that help them prepare for the Board Exams.

No, I am not exaggerating. This is the meaningful translation of what a tuition master told me when I had gone to enroll my daughter in his institute.

Me: Sir, does your teaching method differ between students considering the fact that each one of them will be having different intelligence levels?      

Master: We teach the same to everyone since the question paper is going to be same to everyone.

Me: No, sir. What I meant was…

Master: (Interjecting): Have no worries, we treat all alike. Your son will get centum…

Me: But I have only a daughter…

Master: In which case, you treat your daughter as your son.

OK, he didn’t say the last sentence. But he was every inch capable of coming up with that.

And then come the IIT coaching classes.  IIT training, however, is meant only for the curious and technical-minded who have the scientific skills to conjure up 36 hours in a 24-hour day, without which it is impossible to aim for the country’s best engineering institutes, whose students, based on the statistics, have gone on to become, well, outstanding bankers.

The school and exam-oriented regimen, as it is now, may seem a big trudge for some students. Some may have to give up their cherished dreams to attain that coveted engineering degree or that glamorous management certificate. But all the despondency and bitter feelings will doubtless vanish, when they find themselves in a well-paying job that will help them to afford, if nothing, then at least the various tuition fees of their own wards.  Dreams don’t die. They give birth to more dreams.

At any rate, once they are in a secure job, they can always take some time off to attempt the stuff of their youthful dreams. Like write the book they wanted to write in their 11th standard. Of course, it will read exactly like the prose and plot thought up by a high school boy. Exhibit A: Chetan Bhagat.

Or learn music. And at that middle age, music will be more fun, especially with the extra possibility of a post-marital romantic dalliance with the music teacher.

In my childhood days, I wanted to be a pilot. I think now is the right time to realise that. What with the Kingfisher Airlines fleet mostly grounded, I think my car driving skills should suffice.