This morning I was playing scrabble with Nivedita. She started bawling after I made a word. I took 'her place', you see. I let her throw a tantrum, thinking she needs to know that you don't always get what you want in life. Sometimes other people get to it first.
Later we counted the points - she got 61, I got 104. She cried some more. 'I hate to come second' she said over and over and over again.
I don't know if all children have a deep competitive instinct. I know nobody likes to lose but is coming second losing? 'You beat papa - he got 57', I pointed out. But that was no consolation.
OK, so now you're thinking we are monster parents who goad our kid to be 'the best' at everything. That's not the case.
We were counting points in scrabble so she could make sense of the 'double letter words' and 'triple word score' markings. Now that she can make words on her own, we wanted her to learn that part of the game as well.
Of course we 'let' her win quite often. Like most parents do. But she has to learn to take defeat in her stride...
Competition ka zamaana
Nivedita attends a school which has no 'exams' till class 5. The students are assessed on the basis of weekly tests and class observation. They are awarded letter grades.
This is a great source of relief - no pressure on kids or parents to cram and vomit out at the end of every term. However, I wonder whether it's simply postponing the inevitable.
Is it any easier to accept the idea of exams at age 10 or 11? Many alternative schools also follow this practice - 'free learning, no exams' till class 7 or 8. After that the child is taken into the regular pattern of schooling. Because, after all one must appear for the board exam.
I would not want my child to be cut-throat competitive but I do want her to aspire for excellence. I want her to try to come first but not cry or feel despondent if she comes in second. Or third, or fourth, or whatever.
This is a very sensitive issue. At least 6 young people have committed suicide in Delhi alone, following the CBSE class 12 result.
18 year old Priyamvada Singh committed suicide by hanging herself from the ceiling fan in her home. She came home and told her parents that she had scored 86% but had, in fact failed. Here's the scary part:
There was little parental pressure on Priyamada... "We never scolded her nor did we ever force her to study," said Ashok Singh, Priyamvaada's father.
Maybe. But more than family is peer pressure. Pressure from external forces - the need to score high to get into a 'decent' college in Delhi University.
In fact there were suicides during the exam itself, back in March. 17 year old Gurjeet Singh Bagga was upset after writing the political science paper in his class XII board exam. He was found hanging from the ceiling fan.
Gurjeet was a student of Modern School, Vasant Vihar while Priyamvada was studying at Delhi Public School, Vasant Kunj. Both are considered to be 'excellent' schools. And well, that may be part of the problem.
According to a report in TOI Delhi, DPS RK Puram produced the highest number of 90%-plus students — 300 out of 1,000 students. At Modern School, Barakhamba Road, 25% of the 376 who appeared for the exams got 90%-plus.
As many as 1,905 city kids have got over 90% marks in the CBSE class XII exams this year, a good 62% more than the number who crossed the magical figure last year... The flip side of the record high marks is that the cut-off for admission to Delhi University would go up by at least 1% in the better colleges.
And from next year, there will be 27% additional reservation. Yes, they say, seats will be increased. But as Mr Arjun Singh clarified today:
The HRD minister... appeared on Friday on TV to say that the 27% quota would be implemented in one go. He ruled out the possibility of the introduction of quota getting delayed in institutions that are not in a position to increase seats for general category students...
So there are trying times ahead. You may not pressure your kid :"Get 90% or else". But that doesn't mean he or she doesn't feel pressured.
And then, some amount of pressure and parental policing is necessary - there isn't the option of Bachelor's in video gaming and Masters in Cartoon Network.
And even as I write this, I know I really should be at home with my daughter... Because this is the time to establish channels of communication, make her feel secure. To temper her 'I hate to come second' with 'It's ok, there will be a next time'...
Gosh, how I hate working Saturdays!