LET KIDS BE KIDS
The unrealistic pressure on primary school students
Mollika Hossain (Article from The Daily Star)
I still vividly recall seeing the tired defeated look on my six-year-old cousin's face as he grudgingly huffed and puffed through his daily evening studies. At that time he was only in kindergarten, and I was baffled with the amount of studying expected out of young children like him in Bangladesh. I again noticed the same pattern with my other older cousins who were in 5th and 7th grade. It seemed bizarre to me that all these bright young kids would study most of the day every day after returning home from school and coaching. Yet, the kids were miserable and appeared to loathe learning.
To begin with, one of the main issues I have with education in Bangladesh is the excessive load of study materials and the high pressure applied on children to get the highest marks possible. It is time that we wake up and recognise that studying large amounts of information for a long period of time is not necessarily likely to yield the best results. A large study load and long study hours does not correlate to success in the true sense of that word. Studying, like many things in life, follows a statistical bell curve, which demonstrates that everything must be done in moderation and past a certain quantity, the efforts become counterproductive. In fact, a Stanford University education researcher found that too much homework can negatively affect children by increasing their stress levels, affecting their health, and leaving less time for friends, family and extracurricular pursuits.
In addition, the high amounts of pressure placed on these children by their parents and teachers is unrealistic and frankly speaking, inhumane as they continue to rob these kids of their already fleeting childhood. We have to recognize that play and fun is an essential part of the mental stability and growth of all human beings. We must give children the opportunity to be silly and fully maximize the good times in their childhood in order to produce fully functional and well balanced adults.
Furthermore, I am disheartened by how in Bangladesh, memorization and the ability to regurgitate mere facts and details are given more emphasis and value than creativity and independent thinking. I see my cousins just memorising choras or poems and practically every other thing in every book of every subject. Memorisation does not equate to actual learning and intellectual growth. Why are we making children sit there and regurgitate useless material that will not truly serve any useful function? For example, instead of forcing children to memorise poems, why not encourage them to experiment with poetry and create their own poems? Schools in America foster creative thinking and utilise theory based learning and analysis as a teaching method, focusing on broadening student's minds and places little emphasis on memorisation and regurgitation comparatively.
Moreover, I believe our schools would benefit from adapting some of the ways of the American education system. Teachers are usually revered by students in Bangladesh, but they are also feared. Inducing fear within students actually hinders learning, so I would recommend that Bangladeshi teachers play more of the role of a facilitator to learning rather than an authoritative figure. Using different modes of teaching is important, since, not every child learns just by watching the teacher speak or write on the board. Some children are more visual learners, while others are auditory learners. Some are tactile learners, and then again some are a combination of all three. We should be aware of these variations in learning abilities among children to help every Bangladeshi child reach their full potential.
There must be reforms made in the education system of Bangladesh to allow students to advance and compete with other countries in intellect and innovation. Fostering an environment of creativity while facilitating a reasonable study load is imperative for that to happen in the near future. Most of all, we should allow children to be children, giving them the creative freedom and space to find their own voice and passions, which is what ultimately leads to the creation of leaders within a country. Bangladeshi children have immense amount of talent, but the current education system is suppressing their unique gifts and instead producing a bunch of monotonous robots unable to think for themselves. These children need to be given the vessel to succeed on their own terms. Anything less is simply injustice done on the parts of educators and the education system.
The writer is a medical student of the Florida State University College of Medicine, US.