| A class in progress at Garden High School
'A guardian sends his/her child to school to learn certain subjects, not to play cricket or to swim,' Indranath Guha states categorically.
Ensconced in the rector's chair at Garden High School, which shifted to its new address off the Bypass connector in April 2004 and is now taking in students for its first batch of Class VII, the former principal of South Point School is clear that his second venture would follow the blue-ribbon institute in principle ' 'the emphasis will be on academics'.
'These days the pendulum has swung the other way. Too much weightage is being given to extra-curricular activities,' feels Guha.
This, according to him, has two-fold repercussions. In school, they eat into the teaching hours. 'The Board prescribes 200 working days every year. But if one discounts the vacations, the tests twice a year and the Board exams, one can barely get 180 days of classroom teaching.'
Outside school, these activities in the present-day format only add to the pressure. 'Children are being sent to cricket coaching camps in the afternoon, where parents watch them with hawk eyes. This regimentation takes the fun out of street cricket. It is a similar scene in front of dance and music schools too.'
Guha says he is not against extra-curricular activities. 'But would the schools be able to teach the disciplines with the same seriousness as institutes outside' he asks.
The solution, in his view, is not to fill up the routine with so many hours of entertainment but organise the activities so that the child is provided a lifelong interest. 'For instance, at Garden High, if a child likes music, we plan to provide him with a music library and teachers who can guide him in music appreciation, rather than teach him just to play an instrument.'
The emergence of new-age schools with a flurry of extra-curricular facilities was the fallout of demand as most old schools lacked space, especially proper playgrounds. 'I am happy to see more schools coming up as this is giving guardians a wider choice and forcing existing schools to pull up their socks.'
As for the more-play-and- less-work syndrome bugging schools, the veteran academician says guardians are waking up to the fact that it is one's academic record which is the passport to college, not one's prowess with say, a tennis racquet.