Published:  12:00 AM, 18 May 2016

The unkind kindergartens

The educational system for children in our country is not sound as it appears. Children have to suffer various sorts of pangs and pains where they study. They do not enjoy their learning, so they continuously whine when they are pushed to their schools. It is not for the reason that they are naughty or lazy or unmindful. It is the dreadful atmosphere in the school that upsets them. They fear their 'gardens of learning' like hell! They become 'schoolophobic'. They express it through temper tantrums, to which our society usually turns a blind eye. The innocent tiny tots have to be saved from the tyranny which they have to suffer in the name of education. It is imperative to investigate our formal child education patterns to find out the problems and mend it where necessary for the sake of building a healthy nation.In the kindergartens the kids are treated rather cruelly. A heap of books are imposed on them, a load which they can barely bear. The load is both physical and mental. The weight of the school bag weighs more than that of the kid itself. What a tragedy! What is in the bag? Ten to fifteen books plus ten to twenty note books. Notebooks are greater in number as there are separate classwork and homework against each subject, drawing book added. These bound papers are supplemented by breakfast box, water pot, geometry box and coloring tools.
The fragile body is almost buried under the heavy load of 'learning'. The kids limp on their way to schools and back home. It causes great physical pain, unimaginable to the adults. With a long-term suffering, the pain may render the kids crippled, deforming the backbone and shoulder bones, with collateral damage to other internal organs. Now consider the mental pain the kids have to suffer. The teachers inflict the heavy load of learning on the little cranium. The kids have to learn Bangla, English, Mathematics, Environment, Religion and what not? They have to read and write, listen and talk. They have to draw and drill. They are fed more than they can consume. The lessons do not come to their palate. They keep looking at the printed pages with blank eyes. They have to cram when the brain is not ready to comprehend a lesson, for example, that of geometry. Failure is met with admonition. Their brain cells feel it as a torture. They feel fatigued and depressed, so they are reluctant to rise early in the morning and go to school. But the guardians would compel them to do so! Gradually they become unmindful. Their potential is spoiled. Pity for our dumb kid education!
The arrow of accusation mainly flows towards our kindergartens dealing with so-called pre-school education, i.e. play group, nursery, KG-I and KG-II. As there are no government rules regarding their curriculum, they take full liberty to do whatever they want. They prescribe as many books as they want, the books they favor for reasons best known to them. Why are so many books for the kids? Is there any evil motive in their selection? Some allege that there is a nexus between the school authorities and the book writers/publishers. The writers/publishers pay a huge amount of money to the school authorities, who then, under compulsion, inflict the pains on the little creatures. The guardians empty their purse in order to buy the books and materials suggested by the kindergartens. Nobody is there to address the problem and reduce the woes!
Our crazy kindergartens compete among themselves to take in students as early as they can. They get kids admitted when they are three or so, still in the habit of sucking breast milk. They are snatched from their mothers' lap and put into the formal confinement. It is so unsavory a scene! The babies are crying and desperately looking for their mothers, who are off-limits then! Yes, ayas and buas are there; but are they equivalent to their moms? The separation of a baby at a tender age will make them frivolous and gloomy. They will be mentally imbalanced, without the constant association of their mothers. It is only the business purpose that drives the kindergarten authorities to urge parents to send their tiny wards to their 'prisons'. And their lust for money is making the future of a nation fragile!
Visit any kindergarten in the morning and you will witness the huddle of parents and kids at the gates. The parents just shove the kids through the narrow entrances and heave a sigh of relief. Being a little late is a punishable offence on part of the kids and their parents. It may result in a warning letter and a sum of penalty. The parents will be threatened to withdraw their children. What a chaos in the name of discipline! What is the treatment to the parents who pay high fees for the education of their children? They are kept out of the gate and, most of them women, allowed to sit in row on the footpath just like beggars. Can't the kindergarten authorities spare a modest space where the guardians can sit and wait? "Guardian's room" is an idea totally alien to them. They only know how to count money but not how to show respect to the guardians. What good facilities are offered to the children in kindergartens? Only the painted chairs and tables within four walls! There is no open place where the kids can run and play. An open place is necessary for them to get out of the intramural stuffiness and breathe a little fresh air. Without it, the kids are just chicks in poultry, where their physical and mental growth is retarded. Obliged, the children come to their schools and return home without an opportunity to frisk freely. At home also there is no leisure; they have to finish their homework and prepare lessons for the next day. Mom or tutor will try hard to make the kid fit for the competitive world of the twenty-first century. The kid must perform well in the examination. There is no other choice. They must become first or second. Pressure and pressure! The kids are sandwiched between the pressures of school and home, and utterly lose their mind.
There is a mad race among the schools and parents to make the children 'scholars' from early age. This is simply crazy! Excessive pressure of study has a negative impact on child psychology. A kind of apathy or antipathy to books grows in mind, which in the long run keep them away from books. They never become the real lovers of book. Their reading becomes functional and, ironically, they become headstrong, instead of being wise. Their personality does not grow in a balanced way. They cannot think creatively and face reality with practical knowledge. They lose the power to get enchanted by the natural beauty and appreciate the work of art. Their behavior fails to show any compassion, softness and sweetness. Their heart hardens and they turn into mere machines. The effect of kindergarten education, as it is now, is so disastrous on children's life and on society at large. Twinkling stars end in great gloom! On many an occasion Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her concern about the plight of children. From her good understanding, she called upon the kindergarten authorities to lessen the burden of books from the shoulders of kids. But who hears whose words? The kindergarten authorities scarcely care anything that might hamper their business interest. The government of Bangladesh has great responsibilities to reduce the pains of the children. Particularly the Primary Education Board and the Education Ministry have to come forward to establish discipline in the scene of kid education. They have to strictly monitor the affairs in kindergartens and identify the symptoms of illness. They have to ensure that the kindergarten authorities do not tyrannize the kids and their guardians. It would be better if a law is enacted barring admission of children below six. The kids must not go to school more than three days a week. The curriculum must be downsized with proper legislative measures. No more bloated school bag! Previously the government was successful in stopping caning and other forms of physical abuse in schools. Now we hope that it will streamline kindergarten education system, offering the kids a happy childhood, eventually paving the way for a bright future for the nation.

(The writer is Director, Daffodil Institute of Languages (DIL), and Associate Professor, Department of English, Daffodil International University)

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