Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Testing or selecting?

A recent article featured in Mumbai Mirror on the difficulty level of the school admission tests for 5-year-old kids left many shocked and appalled. Shocking and disappointing to see how the RTE (right to education act) is being flouted repeatedly by top schools in the city with entrance tests being doled out to children as young as 5 and 6 years as an entrance exam (come on, really?) for admissions to standard one.
So what is it that these schools are proving with this test? That only ‘smart kids who can solve tests’ can get admitted to the school? Or that the school is unable to ‘teach’ kids so it only admits those that have already been taught and prepared by parents!

This so-called testing is actually a selection process and is just a kind of ‘academic racism and bias’. Bias for ‘achievers’ and an attitude of ‘if you can’t pass the test then let your ambitions rest.’
So is this kind of testing harmful for kids? Yes it is on so many counts, here are the top three harmful long-term damage that this can cause children
1.     Early on in life a child’s brain is being programmed to recognize learning as stress so more often than not, the thinking brain is paralyzed and the primitive brain is activated leading to memory loss, lack of retention, palpitations during any future tests, exams etc.
2.     The emotional balance in the family goes for a toss as both parents, family are constantly ‘expecting’ the child to perform. This can cause severe damage to the child’s growing socio-emotional development and can lead children to become withdrawn, depressed and feel a constant guilt of not being able to please their parents.
3.     This stress is what brain experts call toxic stress and this can damage cognitive, physical, and emotional growth and development leading to personality and learning problems.

What can parents do about it? Lots, the first step is to understand that a school is a place of learning, exploring, and growing each child to reach their individual potential and so parents need to reject these schools as they are taking away the right of ‘entry into education’ of a child. A right that is upheld by the RTE act of this country. Are you not the ones paying the fee? Then who should be doing the screening and selecting? You or the school? Think about it.

But then why do schools have these tests?  Many schools like to project themselves as ‘hard to get admission to’ so that more parents would want to enroll their children there. Afterall as ‘tiger parents’ we like to get what we feel is not attainable for our child. So by having these tests they try to create a feeling of ‘status’. Do we really want this kind of candy floss status for our children? Are we that gullible? I am sure not.

The RTE act of this country prohibits exams up to a certain age and this is a complete violation of that act that these schools are indulging in. If school is a place where you want your child to build a positive and ethical personality then how can you want to admit your child to a school that practices these unethical and wrongful practices of testing and selection?

A parenting expert that I was talking to recently said, ‘parents react only when it pinches their pocket’. She said this because she saw news about parents’ community in India write to the Prime Minister to control school fees. Well, then parents must also rally together and raise their voice in the media about such abhorrent practices that are harmful for their child.  And this kind of admission testing is expensive both on your pocket and your child. Because it just does not end with the ‘entrance test’, it gives schools an opportunity to charge a ‘donation’ entry for students who did not pass the test and then once your child is in, they can also subtly suggest that the child needs ‘tuitions’ to survive in the school. So what you have actually enrolled your child for is a not-so-merry-go-round of stress, tension and disappointment that can be expensive not only on your pocket but on the well being of your child as a learner. Its time parents react when it pinches their child, and this kind of testing is not only pinching it will leave horrible life long scars on the personality of your child.

Boycott such schools; don’t seek admission in a school that selects children based on their scores. A school is supposed to select a good curriculum and teachers so that children can score well in life. Instead of that the burden of learning is falling on your child, so parents, change this and make the burden of teaching fall on the schools.
Report such schools to the education department, the media today is so accessible, and no school will want negative publicity in the media. Use the social media and spread your disgust about these schools and their unethical practices.

The question is not whether the test was easy or difficult, the point is that kids cannot be selected in a school based on any kind of testing, period. We need to stand up for our children because if we cannot stand up for children then we don’t stand for much. Don’t choose a school that will test your child instead of testing their own teaching quality and capability. Don’t keep quiet, report and rebel with all your might. Remember parents you can choose to either give your child the gift of learning or the burden of stress. Choose wisely as your child depends on and trusts your choice.

Swati Popat Vats leads the franchising, publishing, and teacher education and child education wing of Podar Education Network as its President. Presently the company has over 280 preschools, daycares in India. She also heads the early childhood teacher-training program for the company and has set up over 97 centers. In her 32-year career in education, Swati has taught classes from K.G TO P.G (kindergarten to post graduate) but chose to focus her research and creativity on elevating the cause of preschool education in India. She wants to help refine the teaching learning experience in preschools to enhance the 98% brain development that occurs in children at this age and has designed a philosophy called ‘Kiducation’ for her centers.

Swati is also the President of the Early Childhood Association of India, leader for India of the World Forum Foundation and leader for Asia of the Nature Action Collaborative for Children and founder Director and Parent Mentor of Born smart a parenting website and Institute. She can be contacted on swatipopat@podar.org

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