One of my pet peeves about today’s educational systems is that learning is no longer fun. The workload the students have, even in kindergarten and lower primary is staggering. They don’t have time to play as the number of subjects and amount of material they have to study is far beyond their capacity.

When I was in lower primary (in those days, there were no playschools and kindergartens) the only subjects that I had to study were Malayalam and Mathematics in the first and second standards and Malayalam, Mathematics and Science in the third and fourth standards.

Now a first standard student has to study English, Malayalam, Hindi, Mathematics, Environmental Science, General Knowledge, Computer Science, Moral Science, etc. So one can assume the amount of time the kids have to spend on studies leaving them little or no time to play or have fun.

Most of the textbooks are conceived and developed without giving any thought to the students’ age, knowledge, and capabilities. Most educational systems (CBSE, ICSE, etc.) do not have standard textbooks. So for the same subject there will be many textbooks available in the market. The quality, organization, logical flow, presentation and other pedagogical features vary drastically depending on the skill, effort, and expertise of the author, capability of the editors and designers, amount of money and effort the publisher is willing to allocate for the project, etc. The decision to choose the textbooks is with the schools and if one is lucky the school will buy a good book that let the students learn the subject from grounds-up and from the fundamentals to the advanced.

I have seen second standard Mathematics textbooks that teach addition, subtraction, multiplication and division in four successive chapters. By the end of the fourth chapter the poor kids are totally confused and have no clue about these arithmetical operations.

Sometimes I feel the primary objective of today’s educational system is to educate the parents rather than kids. The following are some of the examples of the projects given in the second standard in some of the schools around here:

  1. Make the model of a tree and write a slogan about protecting trees.
  2. Made the model of a clock.
  3. Paste the pictures and write the names of national and state animals, birds, flowers, trees and fruits.
  4. Create a herbarium.
  5. Collect and write 4-6 poems about birds.
  6. Write a paragraph about Mahatma Gandhi.
  7. Make a chart with the pictures and names of the presidents and prime ministers of India.
  8. Make a Christmas tree and write a sentence about it containing the eight parts of speech.

I don’t know how second standard students will be able to do these projects on their own. It is the parents who do them. So when the list of the projects for each term is announced the students are cool; it is the parents who are tensed! Almost all schools have a fascination towards model clocks. My nephew had the ‘make the model of a clock’ project for the first, second and third standards! If the same trend continues, I think my brother will become an expert in clock designing and manufacturing.

Parents are also are partially to blame for this situation. If a school tries to lessen the workload, then many parents will rush to principal complaining. They will compare the syllabus with that of other schools and would insist on having more topics included. Since education has become a business, the schools will comply as they don’t want to get a bad name. But ultimately it is the poor kids who suffer. They are not only robbed of their childhood and its pleasures but also will grow into clueless zombies.

A few weeks back I saw Amir Khan’s Ghajini along with Ashwin (my nephew). Both of us were impressed with the muscles Mr. Khan developed for movie. I read somewhere that Amir spent one year building his muscles for the character in the movie. Since we have seen Taare Zameen Par before, Ashwin was really impressed with Amir’s new body and muscles, although he was more interested in the Polaroid camera that Amir carries with him.

A couple of days after watching the movie, I was teaching him General Knowledge as he had a test on that the next day. One of the things he had to study was the names of the Nobel laureates of 2008. It was really tough as there were there for Physics, Chemistry and Medicine. So there were a total of 12 names to study—names like Yoichiro Nambu, Makoto Kobayashi, Toshihide Maskawa, Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie, Roger Y. Tsien, Harald zur Hausen, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, Luc Montagnier, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio , etc.

After grappling with these names for about 30 minutes, I was getting tired, Ashwin was getting fed up, and we decided to call it a day. While closing the books and returning the study table to original position Ashwin turned and told me.

Tomorrow onwards I am going to exercise regularly.

Why?” I asked. I was thinking of practicing yoga to combat the stress. I was also a little surprised as Ashwin was never keen to exercise and we usually have to force him.

I want to have a body like Amir uncle.

But I always thought you hated exercising.” I said.

Yes, I still do; but with a body like that I can write these names and if I forget I can look them up as Amir uncle does in the movie. It is better than wasting the time like this!

I completely agree with him on that.


  1. Paresh said,

    September 17, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    Ashwin back in form 🙂 Haven’t read the full post. Will come back.

  2. Dhanush Gopinath said,

    September 17, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    😀 ROTFL

    That was so innovative :). I should say I was Ghajini long time back. For exams I used to write some innocent clues, under the palm 😉

    Thankfully I never stumbled like Jagathi saying “Kemium” to Parvathi in Peruvannapurathe Viseshangal 🙂

  3. Renu said,

    September 17, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    A very nicely written article. I liked your sense of humour.

    As a mother of two children in class 2 and 4, I can very well relate to the problem. Sometimes, I feel so frustrated with so many tests and projects the kids are given.

    Keep writing and my regards to Ashwin.

  4. Dhanya said,

    September 17, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    Nice one. I am a regular visitor of the your blog, but have never left a comment so far. Just wanted to say hi to Ashwin 🙂

  5. Alexis Leon said,

    September 17, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    Paresh: Thanks buddy

    Dhanush: Nice to know that there were Ghajini’s before 🙂 Saw your new Malayalam blog. Nice name and layout.

    Renu: Thanks and all the best with the teaching 😉

    Dhanya: Thanks Dhanya.

  6. Shaheena said,

    September 17, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    Hi Alexis,
    I am a fan of your blog…good to see you back.
    We live in US and are planning to return next year, I get a heart attack at the thought of how my 6th and 3rd grader will mug all these syllabus plus HIndi and malayalam which they are not yet taught at home(which i should have done)

    The schools in US are awarded exemplary and blue ribbon awards every year and it is true that where there are more Indians and Chinese, the schools do far better:) So in a way all these hard works are worth it.

  7. Bindu said,

    September 18, 2009 at 9:33 am

    Well said Alexis!
    I remember a project which my son had last year (Std I) to build the model of a house. Thinking how it should be his project, gave him all the raw materials and got him to do a crude house in cardboard. Got the shock of my life when I went for his next open house. My son’s poor house was kept somewhere behind all the exotic models one of which included a treehouse built in real wood! Looked like one of those we see in those exotic resorts 🙂

    Good one Ashwin, I really understabd what you mean 🙂

  8. Dhanush Gopinath said,

    September 18, 2009 at 10:26 am

    Thanks Alexis. The name is inspired by Rithu 🙂

    Looking at all these comments here about the projects and stuff like that, I just wanted to say the first time I heard the word project at school/college level might be at Class 12, where we had submissions for Science subjects. Yea. I admit, I have grown old 🙂

  9. Annie said,

    September 18, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    The purpose of making children to do all these is in a confusion and children are rather confused and get an aversion to all these if they are compelled to do it by themselves and never know how and what is done, if done by others. Those who make this show never understand that it can never be a real/reality show . Children are not allowed to copy for exams and if they do they are punished. These projects and assignments by proxies(parents) are accepted for assessment and allotment of marks. How a child will not be tempted to cheat when he grows up. But there is no escape for anybody from this vicious circle .
    Nice post. Such causes should come up in blogs.

  10. flyawaymind said,

    September 18, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    your nephew has got awesome imagaination.. lol..
    projects should be something that the kids can enjoy & do themselves & not something that tests their parent’s skills

  11. Mary said,

    September 18, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    I liked this article and I am left bewildered as to what I will do with my son also when goes to school… nice to see your post, mary

  12. Alexis Leon said,

    September 18, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    Shaheena: Thanks Shaheena. Yes it is very hard for the kids and the parents. It will be tough for your kids and I hope you prepare them in advance by teaching them Hindi and Malayalam. If you take Malayalam as your second language, then the only language that you can take as the third language is Hindi. But if you take Hindi as your second language, then you can take French, Latin, etc. as the third language. But Hindi as a second language is very tough as one has to compete with students whose mother tongue is Hindi.
    Hard work is good and is needed to gain knowledge. But at the very young age, forcing the kids to study all the topics which could wait a few years will only create an aversion for those subjects. The workload should be comparable with the age and capacity of the students.
    Bindu: I can relate to you. We also did the same. We asked Ashwin to do the project once and he did it as a 6 year old would do. Considering his age it was really good one. He got a C grade for that. A six year old kid cannot compete with adults and so now my brother or sister-in-law does the projects.
    The only thing one can do is to involve the kids as much as possible. And I know some parents go to great extremes in doing the projects sparing no expense as if it is an entry to some architectural contest!
    Dhanush : Yes, I read the post. But it is quite a nice name. You are very correct about projects; the first time I did a ‘project’ was in Engineering college. I think we were lucky in that aspect.
    Since we didn’t have to do all these, we had enough time to read and that is one habit that today’s kids does not have. So instead of asking to do a project, if the students are asked to read a good book and do something based on that, then it will not only make them interested in reading and it would enrich their vocabulary and knowledge and moreover it will be fun.
    Annie: I completely agree with you. The system has to change and for that the schools and parents should work together. The teachers should be more creative in selecting the project. It should be something the kids can do and it should be fun. Then only the talents and creativity of the kids would develop.
    flyawaymind : I can’t agree with you more…
    Mary: Thanks Mary and wish you all the best…

  13. M said,

    September 18, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    I agree with you, completely. We are in US and kids are having a ‘gala’ time, enjoying their childhood,the way I had in India. When I see the work load of the kids in India I get a heart ache. As a mother, I know, I can’t stand that kind of tension. If kids are very smart they may be able to cope up (not enjoy) that kind of stress. But for an average kid it is like hell. As you said, parents are interested in schools that have most advanced syllabus. They are not bothered about their kids caliber or stress. I can’t keep from expressing, it is really killing

  14. Thulasy Mary Elizabeth said,

    September 18, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    How much stress do these kids carry when they are asked to do something which is really difficult for them? Even at this age while reading your post,I actually skipped the names of the Nobel laureates of 2008.

    Recently I read from Nanditha Prabhu’s blog about how difficult is to get admission to a school now a days and also about the huge fees parents has to afford.Is the teachings in these international schools are really worth the fees and the pains of admission?

    Anyway, I enjoyed Ashwin’s idea.

  15. suja said,

    September 19, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    Hi, happy to see you once again. It is a wonderful post.I agree with you. Today’s kids are very talented &intelligent than us.
    They have wonderful ideas. In my opinion the
    given projects should be simple, according to the age &
    ability of the child. Parent’s should provide the materials &
    give them proper directions. Let the child to do the project
    by themselves.Now CD’s based on all subjects (GKalso)
    are available. It will make the child to understand the things
    better & proper pronunciations.
    Conversation with you & Ashwin is so nice
    All the very best to Ashwin.

  16. Sreejith Kumar said,

    September 20, 2009 at 1:12 am

    With such a talent around, you can think of the possibility of publishing fiction as well… 😉

  17. ashok said,

    September 27, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Good to see you back in action Alexis 🙂

    I sometimes wonder how children are going to cope up with all this. At this rate, we might see evolution happening for real!

    Good luck to Ashwin with the new excercise regime!!

  18. Alexis Leon said,

    September 28, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    M: If kids are very smart they may be able to cope up (not enjoy) that kind of stress. But for an average kid it is like hell. . I completely agree with you.

    Thulasy: Very true. It is very difficult to get admission in a good school and the donation is quite high. Getting into a professional college is easier. International schools with their completely air-conditioned classes and boardings, menu customized for each student and all the posh accompaniments will only spoil the child. Also since the parents usually doesn’t have much time to spend with the kids–that is why they are giving them the best education money can buy (?)–the attachment of the kids with their family no longer exist.

    Suja: Thanks; I completely agree with you.

    Ashok: How are you buddy? Hope things are well. Yes, children are finding it very difficult to cope with this and that is the reason for the rising number of unhappy children.