Today is my soon-to-be-six year old daughter's first day at school. Or is it her last day of childhood? My heart is heavier than her new, big-girl schoolbag as I see her off at the bus stop. Playschool, nursery, kindergarten - those are mere preparation for separation. Class One is the rough, rigorous, Real Thing.
Twenty odd workbooks, textbooks, notebooks. As we sat covering them in regulation brown paper, I noticed they were a lot more colourful and child-friendly than the schoolbooks I remember. Still... they seem like way too many, especially to carry back and forth.
Not long ago, CBSE asked the 6000 schools across the country following its syllabus to reduce the school bag burden. "Schools should also not set any homework for students of classes I and II," CBSE Director (Academics) G Subramanian said in a circular.
Some schools are making provisions for lockers. Most aren't. What's most frustrating is that what you feel on such issues - as a parent - really doesn't matter. You may be a 'consumer' of education, paying a pretty hefty fee, but the general attitude of schools is 'take it or leave it.'
No doubt the school cannot satisfy every pushy parent but the more fundamental issue is about balance of power. That lies squarely with the educators. I wonder whether it's partly to compensate for the fact that teachers - even principals - are one of the lowest-paid professionals in society.
There are times when I swear I can hear the teacher thinking, "Hey, Doctor/ Manager/ IAS officer... idhar sab ek samaan. Here, you gotta dance to my tunes."
I'm sure Nivedita will learn to live with the system - like I did. And millions of other kids have. But is the objective of schooling to merely survive, or to thrive? Wish someone had the answers... or at least started asking the question!