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How exams mess up a child's life

There is nothing like a spot of unexpected excitement and unforeseen jubilation to liven things up at home. And there's been a fair bit of all three (excitement, jubilation, livening up of things) this past week.

india Updated: Oct 09, 2010 23:04 IST
Soumya Bhattacharya

There is nothing like a spot of unexpected excitement and unforeseen jubilation to liven things up at home. And there's been a fair bit of all three (excitement, jubilation, livening up of things) this past week.

Our daughter's school has done away with examinations till students are in Class VI. Not all parents are ecstatic, but we are thrilled. I'd never understood why they needed to have examinations in the first place.

And I only wish that they had got rid of them earlier. I wish that so much that I suggested that we drop Oishi, who is now nine, down a couple of classes and let her have more examination-free years than she actually has at her disposal at the moment. (It was not a suggestion that was looked upon very kindly by my wife.)

I'm no fan of childhood. I am very glad to have left that phase of life behind; it's hardly an achievement, but so glad am I that it seems like a monumental one to me.

I rather enjoy being an adult. I think I've said this before, but then being tedious and repetitive is one of the things you can get away with if you are an adult. (Just try it as a child. You might get whacked. You are certain to at least get a shouting that will ask you to stop nagging.)

I think examinations further mess up an already messed-up period of one's life. It's bad enough that one has to write them later (I still have nightmares about differential calculus and Old English papers). But it's a real shame if one has to write them when one is six or seven or eight or something.

Just as book prizes turn literature into a spectator sport and make writers appear - wretchedly, unfairly — like winners or losers, examinations - more often than not — make a mockery of children's abilities.

They take the fun out of learning. They put children under unnecessary pressure. They encourage children to be unwarrantedly competitive (God knows they will learn to be in any case once they grow up). And they reduce understanding or knowledge (such as they may be) to a set of numerals that may not be an indication of the child's real abilities.

I wasn't too bad at examinations as a small boy, but the cold dread of their approach, the stomach-knotting nature of their occurrence and the clammy fear of their results becoming known are some of my most vivid and unpleasant childhood memories.

Will they be good enough? Will I be good enough? Why am I not as good as I ought to be? Why are my results not as good as I am? How has the twerp who doesn't deserve it done better than I have? Why? Writers are always full of anxiety, doubt and self-loathing. Children needn't be.

Growing up is hard enough. Who needs all this additional stress?


soumya@hindustantimes.com