The news that a 16-year-old student has died after suffering a heart attack at an SSLC exam center in Karnataka is both tragic and shocking. This was the first time in over two years that the late Anushree had appeared in an offline final exam along with thousands of other students.
In recent months, speculation about university exams and whether they will be online or offline has also created a foggy picture for students who have already gone through a long period of uncertainty due to the pandemic.
Complicating matters even more is that offline exams can no longer be administered as they used to be. There will now be vaccination protocols and SOPs that will add to the stress for both examiners and exam candidates. Add to that the sudden switch to an offline exam model after two years and you have a recipe for an unsavory situation.
Not only are students expected to just brush off their fears, but they are also expected to do well and achieve high percentages. This pressure to do well can sometimes leave lasting marks on a young psyche and at some point we have to stop and analyze if we are asking too much of our children.
Are the old evaluation methods relevant in the post-pandemic world? Can we adapt less stressful ways to assess academic growth? Can we start listening to students instead of just forcing them to adhere to methodologies that no longer work for them?
This is not to say that online exams are the only answer to their trials, but why can’t our education system be more flexible and empathetic?
The problem with conventional grading systems is that it fills students with a fear of not being good enough to meet the required percentages. They often fight against demons of shame, guilt, fear and worry that they will not live up to the expectations of their parents and teachers. In some cases, this stress can be fatal. The statistics on students ending their lives around exam season speak for themselves.
A random Google search of student suicides yields horrific stories that play out around us every day because young people feel not heard, supported and protected. Parents and educators should therefore watch out for signs of acute stress in students and should provide emotional support and counseling as needed. Students must not only be trained to excel in exams, but also learn to deal with exam stress with the necessary tips and tools.
To students, I recommend a few simple tricks to keep calm.
— Designate at least one counselor as your exam buddy with whom you can talk and share your concerns.
— Give your mind a break from revisions and go for a walk, take a power nap, eat something tasty, listen to music, take a bath or meditate.
— Don’t go into ‘what if’ scenarios.
— Know that an exam result cannot determine you or your life.
— Be kind to yourself at all times and don’t push yourself beyond healthy limits.
— If you feel overwhelmed, experience panic attacks and stress-induced physical symptoms, get help.
Finally, remember that the world is much bigger than an exam hall and countless horizons stretch beyond your grade sheet, waiting to be conquered.
— The author is Rajesh Bhatia, founder and CEO of TreeHouse Education & Accessories Ltd, one of the leading providers of early childhood education in India.
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