School going children are burdened with studies more than we, parents and teachers alike, dare to admit. Our current educational system is designed to put maximum pressure on the students starting from the weight of their school bag, going all the way to the dread in the examination room. Whether we are willing to accept or not, we have incorporated too many ‘essentials’ into the student’s life. Right after school, barely getting time to eat their lunch, it’s time for their tuition. Following that, or sometimes preceding it, is the time for “Qari sahab”. And then it’s time for dinner, preparation for the next school day and so on. And what about wasting some time in play? Well, that really is not necessary on a daily basis and can fit in between the other essentials and even that is not preferable because a child should focus on reading in any spare time that he gets. Isn’t that how most of us think? I have seen parents of pre-primary students worrying about tuitions! I’m amazed and alarmed at the same time. But whatever the should’s and should-not’s be, a child is the one who as to deal with it all. And for now, there’s no escaping the system or the routine.
Let’s try to find ways to minimize pressure and maximize outcomes for students (focusing till the 8th grade in general)
1. Get the most out of school
If you want to unburden yourself of the daily tuition, make the most of your school time. Ask questions during or after the lecture, whichever way your teacher prefers. Students quite easily tune out the class lecture because they know they can ask the tuition teacher if they don’t understand anything. And they’re more comfortable doing that because they also feel that the tuition teacher will be more willing to satisfy them because after all, they are being paid (extra). If you do pay attention in class and try to ask questions in school class, you might be able to negotiate with your parents on minimizing or even eliminating the need for tuition.
2. Tuition only when necessary; By YOUR own choice
The reason tuition is considered necessary these days is because it relieves the parents of their binding to get the homework done, shifting the responsibility onto the tuition teacher. The major drawback of taking this ‘easy way-out’ from the very beginning is that it creates dependence. As the child grows, she/he should be able to function on his/ her own, wherever possible. That’s probably the reason homework is given in the first place. The school teacher wants the child to do something on his own, without the immediate presence of a guide (the teacher herself). What we are doing is spoon-feeding. The result is that the child cannot function without ‘assistance’. What we can do is facilitate the child where he, himself, thinks he needs help. Let the child identify the subjects he thinks he has difficulty with. It’s easy to assume that he’s going to be weak in that subject all his life. But in reality, it’s just one phase, or one class or even one or two chapters of that subject that he’s struggling with. If the parents are not in a position to help him, they can assign tuition for that particular subject until the child starts understanding it and is able to catch-up with the studies in school. Involve him in deciding what to do and how to do it.
3. How to do the homework?
Most, if not all, of the children don’t like homework. However, knowing that play time will be a definite part of the day might increase the child’s willingness to do it. He can decide best if he wants to play first and then do the homework later, or vice versa; some children might not be able to relax until the work is finished. Some students would prefer doing the easiest homework first and then get to the difficult one at the end. Others might feel relieved once the difficult chunk has been done. So, there’s no single best way. It only depends on the individual. The parents should allow the child to decide for himself. Let it be the ‘child’s domain of responsibility’. Initially, he might make the wrong choice and end up getting stuck or late. Eventually, he may decide that he needs to change his approach. Help him through the process without pressuring him into doing what you think is right. The whole process is a learning experience for the child on the road to independence that stays with him lifetime. It is more important than having the homework done. Giving up nagging might be a good, though difficult, step for parents here but it will be worth it.
4. Preparing for the exams
Most schools these days prepare students well for the exams through frequent class tests and assessments. Staying regular and not avoiding the tests might be a good start. As the exams approach, planning and scheduling is the key. Even if you can’t religiously stick to the schedule, you stay close, provided that it has been made realistically. The parents can guide where the child needs help or if the child is missing an important aspect of it but the choice of the ‘way’ to do it should be the child’s own. Breaks are essential even during exams and must be incorporated according to the need of the child, depending on his age and whatever works for him the best. Some children, especially younger ones might need frequent 10 minute breaks and a long break for a favourite TV show or anything the child loves to do to relax. The older children can set targets and have breaks in between.
The students can only like the subjects that they understand. Being attentive in class and focusing on having their questions answered will minimize (or exclude) the need for tuitions, sparing more time for homework and play. Having the liberty to schedule their own day increases a sense of accountability in children and discipline becomes a part of their personality without the need of external forces (read nagging). Not skipping the class tests, foreseeing the problems in specific subjects and addressing them in time prepares them better for the final examinations. And with the parents trusting their decision and not excluding relaxation activities/ hobbies or play gives them a sense of independence and willingness to do their best!