As the summer vacation ends and the new academic year begins, young school students are faced with big, exciting possibilities. After all, it means new classmates, friends, teachers, opportunities and beginnings. Schools always make it a point to bring something new into their campus, curriculum and character.
For a child, nothing is perhaps more important than the absence of a friend in class or a lost half inch of pencil. These are intense emotions associated with one's school life. Along with new bags and books, children also carry their dreams. It is up to the respective schools to give shape to these dreams and also live up to the expectations of the parents.
A few schools in Delhi have recommended linking ‘weight' -- not of the school bags but the child -- to grades. This is to make the kids and the parents realise the importance of fighting obesity and remaining fit. For instance, if a child is over-weight, he or she loses points and if the child is fit, then additional points will be given.
Though it is still in a proposal stage and has not yet evoked much of either criticism or appreciation, it establishes the pro-active stance of schools these days, given the inevitable competition.
So this year what is new in schools of Madurai? For a change, students of Mahatma Matriculation School will walk cheerfully without school bags when the school reopens next week. Bold enough to launch the ‘no bag' system, founder of Mahatma Schools, Ms.Premalatha Panneerselvam says: “This was planned for a long time and has been launched this year keeping in mind the health of the students. Students will be asked to leave their books and notebooks in their classrooms, taking with them only the books needed for study.”
The teachers have planned to use more work sheets, thus reducing the number of notebooks used, and will also provide stationery items for the students at the school itself. T. Nithish, a class V student of this school, is excited about it. “I am very happy because my classroom is in the fourth floor and I found it difficult to carry my heavy school bag and I will not miss my things too.” “Parents' response to this system is also encouraging,” says Ms.Premalatha.
Dolphin Matriculation School at Ponmeni has come up with a positive way of disciplining students. Principal A.Padma says: “As corporal punishment is strictly banned by the government, we felt the need for an alternative to guide them positively. So we decided to introduce the grade system. According to the system when a student lacks attendance or fails to communicate in English inside the campus, the student's grade is brought down and prizes are given to the students with high grade. This will definitely inspire the students to get better.”
“Learning with conceptual understanding is necessary,” points out Mrs.Kausalya Srinivasan, Principal and Correspondent of Akshara School. The school in collaboration with Education Initiatives, started by the alumni of IIM-Ahmedabad, plans to conduct online tests in Science, Mathematics and English from this academic year. “This online test comes under two headings ‘Mind Spark' and ‘Detailed Assessment'. As we finish our syllabus we send it to the Education Initiatives and they prepare a complete set of questions based on it and conduct online test for the kids. This is not a test but an assessment based on thinking” says Mrs. Srinivasan enthusiastically.
Like everything else, classrooms are becoming digitalized. Schools like C.E.O.A and Chetana Matriculation have planned to introduce ‘Audio-Visual' classrooms.
Says Prof.Kanthasamy of M.N.U Jayaraj Annapackiyam School: “These days parents expect their children to gain from more extracurricular activities in school. We have decided to start instrumental classes along with abacus.”
Now what do parents and students expect from their schools? Mrs. Hannah David, mother of two school-going kids, says, “More than education the schools should develop confidence in the student's mind and also make them a good citizen in the society.”
Mrs. Jamuna, mother of a IInd standard child, says, “As most of the parents today belong to the working class it becomes impossible for us to help our children in their studies. So, we are forced to completely depend upon the schools for their education and we expect the schools to understand our situation.”
Students respond in a slightly different way. “Teachers must be friendly to approach and also should give individual importance to us according to our learning capacity,” says C. Nirmitha, a XIth standard student.
When P. Mithul, a class III student, is asked why he wants to go to school, he happily shouts, “To meet my friends!”
School life can mould a better future and it is the time each of us would like to look back on and cherish. With wishes and prayers, let's wait and see what this academic year holds for these children. And surely, the smiling faces of young students getting on to the school bus each morning and returning equally cheerful in the afternoon is what one loves to see.