By Parag Deulgaonkar
Comment: Digital age only means that my six-year-old daughter receives WhatsApp assignments from her teacher
Most parents, particularly if their children attend an Indian curriculum school in the UAE, will understand my predicament. My six-year-old daughter is forced to carry schoolbags that are sometimes a quarter of her weight. Students from an early age are left to struggle under the load of their books, while the parents try to cope with weekends that are as academically focussed as the school week.
From weekday to weekends, my Grade II child is asked to unravel answers to three-digit subtractions and multiplication equations. Sometimes she just sits there, asking me: “Did you ever solve these questions?”
This is an unpleasant tradition my fellow countrymen have passed down for generations. Somehow, we need to break the cycle, but if my wife and I decide to move her out of an Indian curriculum school and we then move back to India our daughter will be at a disadvantage. School fees for non-Indian curriculum schools in India make that option impossible to afford.
If five days of classes aren’t enough, my daughter’s school sends homework every weekend that requires hours to complete. This digital age, which seems to be the perfect moment to lighten my daughter’s schoolbag, instead piles on the assignments.
Parents have a WhatsApp group where they talk about the school day in and out. A ping on the school group sets the weekend race for my daughter to complete her assignments as well as the bribes of ice-cream or chocolate if she can get her work done.
This all goes against the September 2016 advisory by the Central Board of Secondary Education, an Indian government education board for public and private schools (to which my child’s school is affiliated), to stop assigning homework to students in grades I and II. The thinking is that children need to enjoy their weekends and not be stuck carrying schoolbags.
A number of reports suggest children are prone to scoliosis, an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine, if they carry heavy schoolbags.
An Irish Times report in February 2017 found almost a third of parents of primary school pupils said their children cannot walk to school because of the weight of their schoolbags.
A survey by India’s Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry last year said almost 68 percent of schoolchildren in India who are 13 and younger face the risk of back pain by carrying heavy backpacks.
Almost five years ago, a British report said that a growing number of children in the UK were likely to develop irreversible back deformities because of the weight of the school bags, and half of all children suffered back pain by the age of 14.
Certain countries are taking note. In the Finnish school system, for instance, children do not start primary education until age seven (although school bags are mandatory, but lightweight), and homework is minimal, thereby allowing children to spend more time on extra-curricular activities, and, quite, frankly, to be children.
Despite the science supporting the need to review heavy schoolbags and mounds of homework, Indian curriculum schools remain undeterred. Teachers expect the work they assign to be completed, and the parents are left to bribe their children to get it done.
In today's school system children are drilled like soldiers, their minds are being 24/7 occupied with mostly unnecessary stuff, whereas the real important things in life are not taught, such as: proper nutrition, spiritual practices, staying and being authentic (instead of becoming a puppet of conditioned society and a corporate slave once graduated from school/university), meaningful leisure activities such as going out in nature and studying it, connecting to people in real life not through artificial social media. All this AI technology is only geared towards converting humanity into a transhuman society of cyborgs - human becoming machine and if we don't stop that evil trend soon, we are all doomed.
Completely agree with the writer here... Kudos for being so candid about things.. Feel of being left out in competition is another reason why parents go about this as a normal routine..
Indian curriculum and methods of teaching need to be revamp...in spite of these schools located in a country like UAE which is an hub of modern education they are unable to improve their practice...