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Being young isn’t easy. Academic goals have to be set — and met. Co-curricular activities have to be pursued – and enjoyed. Social service skills have to be developed for social good. Students today know and accept all of this.
But what is arising as a big area of negotiation is whether they have the ultimate control over their childhood.
How are schools managing this new challenge? Teachers said parents have it even tougher than them these days. Students, however, said parents ‘don’t understand,’; the latter said, ‘they won’t listen’. In the increasingly barricaded world of children versus authority figures, schools have emerged as the platform where both sides have called a truce.
“The school helps create the balanced kid. When society itself is undergoing a churn, how can we expect our children to remain unaffected?” said Suman Kumar, principal, Bluebells International, ranked second again among south-east Delhi schools in the HT- C fore Top Schools Survey 2013.
The emphasis on academics notwithstanding, social service and extra-curricular activities are channels through which children can ‘work out’ emotional baggage, principals feel. Counsellors talked of sixteen-year-olds on anti-depressants, of Class III students attending psychological counselling classes.
“Empathising with other people helps a child to deal with his or her own problems,” said Minakshi Kushwaha, principal, Birla Vidya Niketan. The school is ranked seventh in this year’s survey. Several south-east Delhi schools have, in fact, started life-skills assemblies where issues such as cyberbullying, gender equality and homophobia are being discussed threadbare in the form of panel discussions and, even, plays.
Luvditya, a Class 11 student at the Indian School, said he has just participated in a workshop “to make parents the new best friend.” The surprise achiever of this year is this school; from ninth place, it has moved to third place in 2013.
All unique, all gifted
School life, said experts, can make children feel successful, if there are various avenues to excel. Mothers International, which has topped again, has done best in academic rigour, infrastructure and facilities and individual attention to students; Bluebells in extra-curricular activities and innovative teaching; Don Bosco in value-for-money categories.
“Each child is gifted in their own way,” said Tania Joshi, principal, the Indian School. “Our children conceptualise and bring out magazines, we encourage them to take responsibility” she added. Most students seemed to demand that elders respect that they had come of age. Manas, class 11 student, Bluebells International, however, said he has no issue with the school “giving direction to information.”
Toufiq, a class 12 student, also brought attention to the school being a place where “questions and counter-questions” are allowed. Joyee, a Class 11 student, certainly had several of her own: “We could be surfing the internet for fun facts, literary facts, scientific facts. Why restrict us? Won’t it whet our curiosity?”