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Pariksha Pe Charcha 2.0: Narendra Modi advises parents not to connect children's report card with social status

Exams are in the air. There is no better time than this to engage in a direct conversation with the future of this country. In an improvised rerun of last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacted with about 2,000 students, their parents and teachers at Talkatora stadium from all over India as also abroad setting a template for how we as a society should deal with our children.

 Pariksha Pe Charcha 2.0: Narendra Modi advises parents not to connect childrens report card with social status

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Twitter/@BJP4India

In an extremely easy-going conversational ambience, the prime minister directly interacted with students, teachers and parents, literally the whole ecosystem that underpins our education system. While the exam and the stress related with it had constituted the underlying theme of the whole event, the prime minister shed light on the larger aspects of life that would guide and shape a young student’s experiences and journey.

Drawing a connection between expectations and aspiration, the prime minister opined that while expectations are good for the rise and success in life, but the same expectations shouldn’t lead to hopelessness and despair should one fail. “Just as the breaking of a few toys doesn’t destroy childhood because of some exam having turned out unexpectedly, life doesn’t stop,” said Modi. Expectations should be realistic and in tune with one’s strengths and weaknesses, he highlighted.

Parents often make the academic performance of their child a social status symbol. This means they find themselves in deep stress in case there’s a mismatch between their child’s report card and their social expectations. This pressure is, in turn, transfers almost completely onto the child. Modi suggested that parents should continue to keenly observe their children beyond their infancy and early childhood. This would help parents identify and detect their child’s strengths and weaknesses early on and reduce pressure in later stages. Modi was at his humorous best when he advised the parents not to use their child’s report card as their visiting card at a social gathering. He also urged parents not to impose their unfulfilled dreams on the young shoulders of their children.

When a student asked him how goals should be set, Modi offered a classic Gujarati proverb ‘nishan chuk maaf. Nahin maaf nichu nishan’. It means failing to meet a target was forgivable but not aiming lower than one’s potential. What the prime minister really meant was that one should aim as high as possible – goals pahunch mein ho par pakad mein nahi, in his own words.

To a question on how video game related distractions in children must be dealt with, Modi recognised the indispensability of technology in our lives today. While technology is a double-edged sword, he underlined the use of it as an enabler in a positive direction where it made the child ‘more human and less robot’ and not the other way around. Even as he dwelt on technology, Modi also reminded the audience of the need for physical activity when he recounted an incident how very few students had answered in the positive when he had asked them if they had sweated physically at least four times in a day during an earlier interaction. So, both play station and playing field are equally important, he said.

Famed for his own punishing schedule and excellent time management, the prime minister through a simple analogy of a domestic maid balancing her time and responsibilities at each of her employers, stressed on the need for planning, timely review of schedules and realistic goal-setting among students.

During this interaction, the prime minister had a point to make to everyone. For teachers, he recommended that they don’t compare a student with better performers as a way of driving a point to the former. In this context, he also advised the students not to seek external validation for their efforts or achievements which is a sign of weakness. For parents, he suggested that they should engage with teachers more directly and frequently involving them in everyday social activities which would go a long way in making teachers a part of the family. For Modi, this was about bringing the education ecosystem together to face challenges, rather than each other.

Towards the end on a question on depression plaguing a large number of students especially hostellers and outstation students, the prime minister offered an innovative psychological formula that constituted writing about any suppressed personal angst on a piece of paper, tearing it down, and writing it again repeatedly till the note become insignificantly small and the pain reduced significantly or eventually went away.

Through this interaction, Modi has sought to encourage a shift from an erstwhile authoritative and authoritarian parent-teacher-child landscape to one of meaningful engagement on a parity where the children will not be rebuked for their curiosity and asking questions. And where the exams would no more be a bugbear for them. The greater the number of curious children and more inquisitive the questions, the greater the future of a country. Cliched as it may sound, life itself is one big exam that continuously tests a person’s character and that is more important than anything else, according to Modi. Revealing his compassionate self when he said that the feeling of India as a family gave him the energy to work tirelessly and sleep less, the prime minister has struck a chord with the people of this country. Remember that no other political leader of any country in the world has engaged with students in such a structured but free-flowing manner. If this is not a democracy, what is? If this is not a concern for the future of the nation, what is?

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Updated Date: Feb 05, 2019 11:12:34 IST