The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Spend this summer away from the stress of studies

6At the study desk from 6 am to 8 am. Confined to the classroom from 10 am to 3 pm. Homework from 5 pm to 7 pm. A TV break from 7.30 pm to 9.30 pm. Back to books from 10 pm to midnight… Portrait of life as a pressure cooker for school kids

-Theatre workshops and folk painting; Feng Shui and event management… A busy day during the summer holidays, where learning is fun

Desperate to de-stress students, schools are now seeking organised platforms to keep them busy, find them a passion to pursue and aid all-round development. “We need to provide multiple education for our children, with new and traditional values and skills, to help them acquire the full human potential for growth,” says Kaveri Dutt, principal of Birla High School’s junior section. “There are six areas of potential growth in the brain, and each has to be individually stimulated through a variety of activity-based learning programmes. Parents usually stress academics above all else. That needs to be changed.”

So, the city’s “first-ever” tie-up between a centre for “extra-curricular activities” and schools. “The children of today are becoming machines. We aim to relieve the burden of academics, keep kids gainfully employed during the holidays and bring them back to the roots of art and culture,” said Shyamanand and Chetna Jalan, while launching Padatik’s summer camp. With a panel of four leading educationists to guide the students, the purpose is to provide “stress release for children, away from studies and exams”.

Stress seems to be the operative word when it comes to studies. Child psychiatrist Jayranjan Ram points out that the focus of childhood has become academic excellence, to the exclusion of the “social, ethical, moral and cultural development... The well-rounded development of a child is sacrificed… Even the concept of neighbourhood playing has evaporated, so the kids literally have no outlet left.”

Parental and peer pressure, adolescence and exams can all get a little too much for a child, and a range of activities or at least one hobby is essential as an outlet for the youngsters. And in the summer of ’03, the choice ranges from the traditional to the trendy. If Birla Academy of Art and Culture is offering vegetable dyeing, block printing and theatre for the first time, folk painting for the younger age group and dance appreciation for the older lot will debut at the Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre. And Padatik will introduce Vedic Maths, the science of Feng Shui and how to organise a theme party.

“We are taught the limitations in life. Children need to believe ‘I can do it’. We need to open up new avenues to them, to help them forget the stress and strain of daily life,” says Parcy Jones, secretary of La Martiniere for Boys, and one of the panellists at Padatik.

It is the need for an “all-round education” that the teachers and principals are trying to hammer home, among parents and students, with the emphasis on the fact that it is not a trend but a necessity — to give the kids a breather, before it is too late. “We keep introducing new activities in and out of the classroom, and the parents, too, are becoming aware of the need for extra-curriculars,” says Dutt.

But with recreational facilities sadly limited to parties, television or computers, it is up to the holiday workshops to fill the gap. “Not only are they fun, but there are no exams, no stress and yet progress is made, so that those who want to continue, can go up to the next level,” says Anuradha Das, principal of Calcutta International School.

The “uniqueness” of the Padatik experience is the “circular approach”, according to Anjali Razdaan, principal of Lakshmipat Singhania Academy. “There needs to be continuation to generate interest. Besides, the child is stimulated because of the integrated theme. All the classes co-ordinate with each other, and the finished product is through teamwork,” she points out.

The final word from the principals is that the parents should come along with their children to attend the Vedic maths course, to see how much a non-formal way of teaching helps enjoyment and boosts concentration. “We will definitely attend,” smile Dutt and Das.

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