The education system in our country is filled with targets and deadlines in the form of examinations. Exams act as stressors for the children, and the expectations of the parents aggravate it. Up to a certain extent, stress is healthy as it motivates one to perform well by planning a routine and breaking down the syllabus into do’able portions to be revised each day. But when stress exceeds beyond a threshold, it could have detrimental effects on the child’s psychological health as well as his/her performance in examinations.
The story does not end with examinations, but it goes on till the results are declared and beyond. Few days prior to the declaration of results, there could be an ‘anxiety state’ in the child in anticipation of his/her results. There is an increase in discussions about the probable date of the results, estimation regarding the grades and planning of the child’s future educational endeavours. The child comes into the limelight the day his/her results are declared. On the day of the results, the child’s mind is in turmoil. A myriad of emotions go through his/her mind- hope, fear, confusion, joy, sadness, etc.
After the declaration of results, things go well if he/she gets good grades. Positive emotions of joy and hope occur when the child gets the expected results. But all is not well if grades are below the expectations of the child or the parent.
India is a country where parents will invariably decide what a ‘good’ grade should be for their child. This has resulted in a flaw in the educational system where competition is valued more than competence. On many occasions, they become disappointed not because of their own performance but because they are compared with the performance of their peers.
Whenever his/her marks are below expectations, a lot of negative emotions come into play. The child might appear extremely quiet or become irritable whenever discussions related to the results take place. There might be irregularities in his/her daily routine in terms of sleep or food intake. His/her self-esteem might be affected, and they might be hesitant to apply for further studies. On many occasions, they settle down with constructive parental intervention, but sometimes they might require professional help.
A growing child’s mind is like heated glass. A skilled artisan is able to mould it into any shape during this critical phase; parents need to assume the role of the ’artisan’ to shape his bright future.
Dr Veena Gholap
Department of Psychiatry, K J Somaiya Hospital.