Priyanka Dalvi has a packed timetable. The Class 10 student’s will soon be on study leave and teachers are taking back-to-back revision classes. Suddenly, after a mind-numbing logarithm session, an instructor enters her class and diverts her to a different session — yoga. Dalvi’s bi-weekly yoga session is to help her deal with exam stress.
After cases of student suicides and depression because of academic stress, city schools have devised ways to ease pressure on children and are sending the same message to parents. From yoga classes to ‘chill-out’ months, the marks-oriented attitude of schools has changed this year.
“Initially, it was odd that a class of 60 was sitting and doing exercises in front of a blackboard. But after a month, we got the hang of it and began looking forward to it as a break,” said Dalvi.
Schools reason that the rising pressure on students has made them change their attitude. “Every year there is a rise in the number of student suicides. Parents worry that even a 60 per cent is not good enough. Pressure begins from day one and we have realised that it is our responsibility to help ease the stress,” said Anshu Sharma, student counsellor at Children’s Academy at Kandivli.
A few monts ago, the school started yoga classes for Class 9 and 10 students. The session comprises simple deep breathing and relaxation exercises and meditation. “Children found the concept funny but they are getting used to it,” said Sharma.
Dalvi’s mother, Pushpa, is happy. “My daughter was constantly anxious but now her posture is more relaxed. It might not be because of yoga but could be because of a change in attitude,” she said.
At the three schools managed by the Goenka Education Trust, parents of Class 10 children are being asked not to pressure children. “Competition was healthy five years ago, but now it has multiplied and we find ourselves in a position to be friends before mentors,” said Usha Raina, CEO of the trust.
Other experiments by schools are the concept of ‘chill out’ months before the gruelling study months. In St Columba’s Girls High School in Gamdevi, there are no studies in December and January. They engaged in Christmas festivities in December, and in January activities like ‘Canteen Day’, picnics, social service camps, and sports events were organised.
“Children do not have any free time. They attend schools, tuitions and then go home and study. This is stressing them out and leading to depression. As a school, we have to change our attitude and let them relax,” said Prabhjot Masih, the principal.