A good child is defined by the number of hours s/he is glued to a chair in cramming his/her lessons. The millennial parents are driven by the desire to see their children at the top. To get the drift of what's transpire in the name of education in this clime one must take account of the mounting pressure on children.
In an exam-centric environment many things go wrong. Parents are constantly being troubled by issues, real and imaginary. Additionally, biased behaviour of certain teachers and peer pressure throw up problems for children and parents alike.
The normalisation of the image of small children carrying oversized schoolbags, getting into rat race at an early age – are gradually erasing the notion of childhood.
A six-year-old sits for an admission test with a throbbing heart instead of enjoying filling out an answer sheet. Questions automatically arise: What is s/he learning in life? How are they dealing with such pressure? What are the physical and mental impacts of all this on them?
This pressure of exams creates anxiety in children which psychologists call "performance anxiety."
Anxiety is purely contagious. Most parents carry this "larva" of anxiety and "spread" it among their children. Unhealthy competition, comparison and peer pressure are the means through which to spread it.
As children are not mature enough to deal with the pressure, it gets into their nerves and some of them fail badly in the process. And, after that if they go through any tantrums, it affects their mental health as well.
To get out of this, like all other human beings, children also look for entertainment. Nevertheless, a lack of entertainment leads them to inadequacy and they keep cramming but end up forgetting.
"Learning requires a fresh mind. But if there is no refreshment, how would they learn and remember things? Parents need to ensure healthy entertainment and also introduce them to failure so that they can accept things easily," said Dr Helal Uddin Ahmed, associate professor of the Department of Child Adolescent & Family Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health.
Learning has been replaced by cramming because of guidebooks and coaching centres.
According to the law, printing, publishing, selling and distributing guidebooks are strictly prohibited since 1980. Still, guidebooks are available in the market. As things cannot be changed overnight, steps need to be taken and examples need to be set by the government as well as social actors if we want change.
Syeda Tahmina Akhter, professor and director of the Institution of Education and Research, University of Dhaka, said, "Other than these guidebooks, children need to be taught value education since childhood, whereas we prepare them for admission tests. In countries like Japan, Australia, America, there is curriculum and monitoring boards for value education. If we are to emulate others, we need to emulate good traits from the developed countries."
The motto of education is not to traumatise children. Parents, teachers and peers can play a vital role here as their compassionate behaviour might make them feel at ease. Encouragement will help in a better way than bullying and taunting.
"Children should not be judged through an evaluation system because it makes them feel inferior. We evaluate a child with the system named admission test even before they enter the academic life. Whereas their mental health should get prioritised, instead we are prioritising evaluation," said Md Fazlur Rahman, professor of the Institute of Education and Research, University of Dhaka.
The anxiety of exam is hindering children's mental growth. As it is materially invisible, it does not mean that its impact is not visible.
After every board exams or admission tests, we find news of suicides. Is it just a result of one board exam or the series of exams that started at the age of six? Isn't it the consequence of the huge pressure that they feel because of the "performance anxiety"?
Maybe it is time to think. So, think again.