Are our children flying? Do they have wings? Even if they have wings are they ready to take off? Is the environment providing a platform for the wings to grow strong? Why our children going to college and
earning a degree but there is no tangible or visible evidence of learning in the form of growth of economy? These questions have been whirling in my mind for a while now. My cursory research last week led me to look at how our youth are achieving in the civil service examinations. This also led me to have a peek at the clamour for Government jobs. I was left wondering why is that there is sheer
dearth of success stories except for the isolated instances of success in the field of engineering, medicine, private enterprise….I could go on….
We always have the ever ready reason of an unrestful political climate to point our fingers as the primary reason that has led to a state where bright youth have wings to fly but cannot fly or will not fly.
We also go on berating the state of education, the quality of education, the curriculum, the Board, the state of infrastructure, corruption at all levels in all spheres of life and in the education set up, teachers that do not teach or will not teach but will do so in tuition classes and even as we state all of this, we relentlessly push children to score higher and even higher…
The environment in which our children strive to achieve is extraordinary to say the least and equally so the environment in which our teachers strive to enable the teaching learning process continues.
Having seen the education system breaking into pieces and now slowly emerging like a phoenix from the ashes is most heart-warming. Trauma can take its toll.
How are our children coping with stress of having to live in an environment of unrest day in and day out? How are we helping our children to cope with stress? Neurological research shows that
traumatic experiences such as being abused, witnessing a violent crime or even living in a neighborhood where crime/violence is pervasive can affect the developing brain. Indeed studies show that these experiences can alter the chemical balance, making it more difficult for children to create memories and build trusting relationships. Incidentally, in case we have forgotten having been
numbed by the disturbed environments around us – these are vital and fundamental skills for performing well in school and college as also in entrance examinations of any nature.
Reading about the effects of trauma on the brain especially on children vis-à-vis learning, I came across this from Susan Cole who is a Harvard Law School professor and Director of the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative which advocates for ‘trauma sensitive’ schools. She says, “The brain cannot focus when it is not calm” and “Children have to feel safe enough to learn.” As an educationist, I cannot agree more. If we were to ask children, how many of them know of someone who has been shot at, it will not be surprising if all or almost all will raise their hands. Anxiety is not a visible or tangible entity that can be wiped away with an ‘Anti-Anxiety Cleaner’. All the young impressionable minds would be on an extra high alert for noises, sirens….and the mind highly strung owing to unbearable levels of anxiety which children cannot express in words and which they will share only when there is an environment for sharing. Children not wish to go outside, be alone, being without their family members in an external setting, resisting going to school are some signals that we as adults and as educators should be alert to. Excessive stress can have lasting effects and research has proved that stressful experiences in childhood can lead to suffering from poor health later in life, depression, heart problems, obesity or even cancer. I would not wish this upon our children and neither will you. It is a sad reflection of us as a human society that even till date we do not have a major study about the traumatic effects of disturbed environments that are forced upon our children by agenda drivers. While the well to do can afford to send their children outside to study, and the courageous seeking better opportunities land up on foreign shores to have a life, the vast majority and especially the poor have no other option but to live through and live with stress.
Is the mental health of our children; an area of focus in today’s reality? Do we have counsellors in all our schools and by ‘all our schools’ I include both private players as well as Government schools.
Are our teachers equipped to deal with children prone to anxiety attacks as well as stress triggered indiscipline? For it is a sad fact that toxic stress can provoke children to lash out due to seemingly
minor provocations by the very same heart-thumping surge of adrenaline that can also save a life. Are our teachers themselves taken care of in such a manner so that they are without stress while in the
classroom? How much are we investing in training and strategies to respond to trauma or start grief and trauma counselling for children?
Apart from this, how interesting and arresting are our resources that we use in classrooms? The textbooks that are used currently are far from being error free. These books written in flowery language, at times with difficult words prove uninteresting and unappealing. This becomes an obstacle for sustaining interest or enabling learning to progress and such scenarios in Science and Mathematics proves detrimental to higher exploration of concepts. When concepts are not appealing children surely lose interest in these subjects. Do we have a severe scarcity of writers who can infuse life into the pages that our children use as resources day in and day out? The overarching and
highly controlled textbook creation process needs to be revisited so that we create textbooks that are simple yet enable thinking about concepts and provoke exploration of concepts. For me, as an
educationist it is definitely not surprising that our children are able to crack the civil service examinations as most of these examinations are more of knowledge and information testing and less of application and analysis or thinking.
My heart swells with pride at the achievement of Zahid Qureshi, Ajjaz Ali and Gazi Hussein in cracking the IIT entrance examination in 2015, their personal challenges and struggles notwithstanding. Zahid’s
father was killed in 1995 in Kupwara while still a baby, Mauzam Mushtaq from a remote village in Baramulla and Gazi who is visually impaired is the son of a labourer from Shopian. All three trained with the Kashmir Super 30, a programme run by the Army and an NGO and I am aware that several others that trained with them got through various other engineering colleges. The Super 50 launched last winter is a laudable step in the right direction. Couple this with counselling to ensure stress free minds and if we wish and will it a violence free society our children will blossom into self-directed committed youth for whom the sky is the limit for they will have robust wings to fly.
A writer, thinker, published author, and an educationist, Dr. Farooq Ahmad Wasil, is GLOBAL HEAD low cost schools,GEMS Education, Dubai, UAE. He has over 3 decades of experience in the field of education – setting up, operating and managing schools. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org