Keeping up with its image of being termed the Oxford of the East, Pune has given rise to several colleges and over the past decade, new schools too.
Interestingly, the spurt in the number of schools has also resulted in frequent dissonance between the parents and these institutions.
In a welcome change from the same celebrity faces once comes across on mainline media, I had the recent privilege to meet stalwarts in the field of history, science and education.
I was given the task of moderating a panel discussion on Lokmanya Tilak on All India Radio with history scholars, and also had the opportunity to anchoring a panel on the topic ‘Modernity in Education’ with the Principals of leading schools of Pune.
Pune now has both several techno-savvy ‘Helicopter Parents’ (those who take excessive interest in their children’s life, hover around constantly) and Principals who have to deal with over-indulged children.
it’s a whole new breed that’s now looped in a Catch 22’ scenario. This in fact, summarised the panel discussion we had with principals from pune’s leading schools.
The anxiety of young parents is best reflected on WhatsApp groups amplifying their constant scrutiny of policies and attitude of their children’s schools and teachers.
On the flip side, these mobile groups have led to higher interactivity among the students and parents alike. So, what are the bones of contention between parents and the respective schools?
Encapsulated here are the major pain points between the cities parents and the schools today:
Crisis 1: Too many unit tests: Just a few days ago, a parent posted a message on a WhatsApp group protesting against the continuous unit tests and oral tests that seem endless.
The parent went on to say (triggering a massive discussion and debate) that this was harassment for her child and it should be vociferously debated in the Parent-Teacher Meeting (PTA).
The Principals responding to this question that I posed, said that while the parent has a point, it is for the Government to act on this and trim the syllabus for Std X boards.
The principals’ contention was centred around the need to prepare the children to be able to take the pressure of the syllabus closer to their Xth standard which is vast irrespective of whether it is ICSE, CBSE, SSC, or IB.
For the record, as per Section 16 of the Right To Education (RTE) Act, it is mandatory for schools not to fail the child upto Std VII.
However, earlier this week, the cabinet approved the HRD Ministry’s proposal to fail students if they are weak, but after giving them a second chance. This decision though has been left to the state governments to decide on its implementation.
Crisis 2: School’s rules are no longer the last word: My childhood friend, a senior educationist and Principal, recently gave up her job as the principal of a prominent school in Hinjewadi.
She said that it was impossible to cope with the aggressive and anxious young parents.
“I had parents barge into my room to tell that we need to change our school timings as their children wake up only at 9 am’’. In their frenzy to provide a sense of comfort to their children and protect them from their own failures, parents even question the grades given in report cards, besides questioning the teachers behaviour, school etc.
Recently, at the start of year meeting at a leading school, several parents questioned the school on why their wards were not selected for the annual concert, sports and other extra-curricular activities, alleging deliberate indifference from the school.
Principals who could give terse replies earlier now have to be extremely diplomatic, resulting in possible dilution of their discretionary authority.
The Principals went on to talk about how parents no longer take any criticism of their child’s progress in the right spirit, despite it being necessary to point out the areas for improvement in the best interest of the child.
Crisis 3: Technology can at best be an aid; It can’t replace human touch: Has technology bettered or simplified school education? While most agree that technology has helped in quick communication with parents and made teaching easier with smart-class digital learning, the advantages end with this.
The overall personality development of the child is an important aspect in addition to the academics.
This can be achieved only through a one-to-one relationship between the teacher and student. With the responsibility of emotional and social development of the child resting on the teachers, it is important that both parents and teachers see eye to eye, but this is tragically not the case.
While the students are in a safe environment of their schools, the principals complained of the lack of cooperation from parents who choose instead to pamper their children with mobile phones and gadgets.
Despite the fact the mobile addiction has already been termed capable of causing mental disorders by the WHO, parents respond by saying they find it difficult to restrict it in this era of digital information.
For now, we can only hope and pray that this churn and conflict will only lead to positive change for education as a whole in the years to come…
That's Vinita Deshmukh, Senior journalist and RTI activist who believes in journalism that reflects the views and needs of the common man.
Get Real And Stay Relevant says Vinita,