Students of Motilal Nehru Public School near their campus early on Thursday morning. Picture by Bhola Prasad
Father P.J. James of Hazaribagh, has struck a chord among his peers in the steel city with most principals angrily dismissing moves to shut down schools in the face of adverse, yet bearable, weather conditions.
Like the principal of St Xavier’s School in Hazaribagh, Jamshedpur’s mentors believe that students gain nothing when the district administration almost routinely shut down schools when temperatures drop or, in the steel city’s case, rise drastically.
The academic calendar goes for a toss and the child is denied the opportunity of tackling adverse situations, thereby learning about crucial survival skills.
“Today parents want their children to opt for adventure programmes where nobody knows what conditions they will have to face. But, when it comes to schools, the perception is different. Long vacations can be fine for pre-primary classes but not for the higher classes,” said Ashu Tiwary, principal Motilal Public School.
Frequent holidays, principals argued, would affect a child’s study hours and make him/her too sensitive and incapable of dealing adversities in the form of inclement weather.
Council for Indian School Certificate Examination has mandated 1,200 hours of study for Class XI and XII, 1,000 hours for Class IX and X and 900 hours below Class VIII. Holidays and extended vacations mean schools would then have to hold extra classes or rush through lessons to complete the syllabus.
More than winters, summer vacations are often extended, sometimes by a week, for Jamshedpur schools when mercury shoots up to over 40°C.
Even though schools re-open mid-March, higher classes suffer as their teachers are busy with evaluation of board examinations and are not available for holding classes. Many schools, therefore, start their sessions early.
“We will begin the new academic session as early as on March 10. This is due to vacations and other holidays which affect studies. We can rush through the syllabus but what if students do not understand? If schools in Delhi can remain open in spite of dense fog, why are we forcing our children to be so sensitive,” asked Indrani Singh, principal of ADLS Sunshine School.
Some parents expressed a slightly different view. Most feel an occasional holiday is acceptable for tots —“they are too little to face harsh weather,” said one — but not for higher class pupils.
Many suggested schools should cut down cultural festivals, where a lot of time is “wasted”.
“Long vacations are good for very small children but not for those in class III or higher. They should learn to be robust. But to curb the effect on academics, schools can take a call on the excessive cultural programmes they hold. Every day, there is some competition or the other which impacts academics, too,” said Shriram Singh, a government official, whose elder son is in Class IV and younger one is in upper KG.
The district education department doesn’t know what the fuss is all about. School calendars, it believes, should not get affected as they conduct extra classes for seniors. “At times there is no extension and at times it is for a week. Schools hold classes for seniors. I think everybody will agree to extra holidays to make it easier for the tots,” said Indra Bhushan Singh, district superintendent of education.
Do you want your child to go to school in foggy winter?