Cuddalore Chapter 1 – The nightmarish 8th Grade

School memories are special for everyone. Everyone at some point in their life when they look back, School forms major part of their lives. For me though I don’t remember much about my first 7 years in school. It just feels like a hazy blob without much structure, so let me directly skip to 8th grade of my school life. My parents both worked in a bank so transfer was a normal occurrence. This time they were posted to a rural branch close to Cuddalore. Since Cuddalore was a closest town/city to their branches we decided to make that our home for the next few years.

For me though moving wasn’t alien as we had already moved from Delhi to Chennai when I had completed my second grade. Cuddalore was a nice small town, it had 2-3 major schools, 4-5 theatres, some beaches and overall a good vibe. The biggest challenge for me was always adjusting to the new school. Even when I think about it now, 8th grade in that school X (Let’s call it that) in Cuddalore possibly was the reason I went in to my shell even more. I was never an extrovert but again the experience in that school in Cuddalore possibly pushed me over the edge.

I was never a brilliant student let me be very clear about the same, I did okay in my studies and probably sometimes punched above my weight. This is not to say I wasn’t interested in studies but I needed some good guidance and teaching to understand the concepts better when compared to others. I wasn’t in the top 20% of the class, nor was I in the bottom, I was somewhere in the middle. The Indian school system is brilliant for the students who are probably in the top 20% but have no proper method to deal with the rest.

Going to a new school that too in a place you are not familiar with was a daunting experience. I was new to the town, did not know many people and me being an introvert did not help either. Making friends in that school was tough. I don’t know for some reason the students in the class saw me like an alien and it was hard to gel with them. I had some terrible experiences in the class and I felt miserable throughout the year. Thanks for my one friend, let’s call him V who helped me to get through that nightmarish year. V was the typical top 20% student in the class but also was a great guy as he did not make friends only on the basis of marks and ranks. I also had my neighbour let’s call him JP, who became great friends with me when I moved in and we spent lots of time together and kind of shared similar problems at school.

There were some bullies in school and the fact that I wasn’t doing great in the class did not help matters either. The teachers in that school weren’t very helpful either. I wasn’t grasping the concepts and it became difficult to concentrate on anything without understanding what was going on. Maths became the toughest of all for me through the entire year and I really struggled. I still remember the one day when in the chemistry class, the teacher asked me a question and I did not know the answer. The guy practically humiliated me in front of the class by repeatedly asking me more questions, making fun of me along the way and also suggested something like I did not belong in 8th grade. That episode kind of left a deep scar in me and it made me to never ask any questions in the class even if I had a doubt.

The funny part is that the teachers in India do not realise that each student has different needs and all of them cannot grasp things at the same level. Scolding or hitting someone for not understanding something will not make him to understand it better. In such situations students do couple of things, one they try really hard to understand things on their own or resort to blindly mugging up the answers without understanding the concepts.

It was kind of inspirational for even myself as to how I was able to turn a corner as the year progressed with all the subjects except for maths. I was able to improve through lots of hard work and dedication and was even appreciated by my class teacher in the class. That was one of the very few proud moments in that year. I should hand it to the math teacher though as she was the only person who actually thought she should do something about my troubles with her subject. She offered to spend some time after the school hours to teach me the concepts which she could not do in the class and it really helped me a lot. I really thank her for that. So the absolute nightmare which was the 8th grade was finally coming to an end and we were nearing the finals. My continued struggle with Math meant that I needed to do well in the finals to actually pass the year and my friend JP who had already failed a year had to pass this year to save some face with his family.

We both approached the final exams with lots of sincerity and thanks to my sister who spent a lot of time with me before the math exam, I think I did reasonably well and felt confident of the results. Exams were over and the summer break had started and I was extremely relieved to have gotten that break. Two months had passed after the exams and this was the time people get their results in the post. Those days it would be a post card from the school which will say either “PASS” or “FAIL” in it. Strangely both for JP and me the card never arrived. We spoke to some of our fellow students and realised that all of them had received them and my only friend V from the school had also received the same. Now both of us started panicking and did not know why we did not get the results. We decided to go to the school and check it out and since the school was closed for the summer break no one was in there.

When we started to reminisce what could be the problem we realised that couple of months ago we had a small tiff with the local post man. I don’t remember the exact reason though now but that was the reason for our cards not getting delivered. Both of us immediately reached the local post office and stood outside and spoke to few post men there and they advised us to apologise to our post man. We went in apologised to him and he finally handed over the card to us. The guy got a sadistic pleasure which we could see on his place when we came in all panicky looking for the results. We just gave what he wanted and he handed over the cards. All this was happening while we both still had no clue what that card said. When we finally got our cards, we saw the four letters we wanted to see “PASS”. The year was a total nightmare and possibly one of my worst school year and it rightly ended with equally stressful week or two.

Even though I felt happy for myself and JP I was dreading the fact that I need to go to school again in few weeks and have to spend another year with the same bunch of guys who made my life miserable the year before. I was just hoping for a better school year ahead and probably some new faces and friends when I start my 9th grade. All in that I was happy that I at least had V who would be with me in the year to follow as well. With that thought in mind I continued to enjoy the rest of the break with JP and rest of my neighbour friends who were fantastic by the way while waiting for another year in School X.

Education, marks and teachers

In 2012 we have seen a spate of movies in Tamil targeting the education system. What we have to keep in mind is even though these directors/movie makers have their heart in the right place movies can hardly provide a proper solution. In the end they need to make money and for that they need to be over dramatic and can hardly show reality after a certain point.

Suddenly people have started to take a good notice about our education system. The higher mark equals brilliance concept in our system is one of the most outdated concepts ever. Students (except for a few) hardly learn anything but get the required marks to get over the line. The interesting situation is when the teachers call the parents and complain that their kid isn’t doing well in studies. This is funny because the parents are paying a fortune to put the kid in that school and the fact that they are unable to educate him/her should be a warning signal.

The parents put their kids in a private tuition and voila he starts to pass. Now my question to all the parents is this, if a tuition teacher can make your kids pass (Even though he isn’t imparting any great knowledge) then why does he need the school? Why can’t he just go to 3-4 tuitions and just take his exams, doesn’t that make sense? To be frank the problem is that in a class of 40 about 20 will probably pass in all subjects, the rest will fail at least in one. The teachers are mostly worried about only the top 20 in the class and do not want to take the extra effort on the other 20.

The argument that we are teaching the same way to everyone and why isn’t your kid doing well does not hold water. Kids are different and not everyone is the same. Teachers don’t teach the concepts and just expect the kids to understand what they blabber in the class. Some kids need more than that. When you teach geometry or trigonometry, teach them how the solution comes and what’s the concept behind them. When you do that everyone will get the point not just the bright ones.

This happened to me when I was in standard X1th. That was the year we got introduced to Integral calculus. I had no clue how it worked. Whatever the teacher taught went way over my head, completely clueless I almost failed my exam. Then I went to the tuition, which I hated at that time but could not be thankful to the guy now. The guy who taught me was young and probably just out of college. He taught me the concepts, made me understand how integral calculus works and you know what in the very next exam where the entire paper was on integral calculus I managed to score 90%. The teacher was in absolute shock. Now the point is I am not dumb but the teacher has no clue how to teach. If a guy right out of college can bring out such a performance out of me in my very first exam since I went to him then there is surely something wrong with the school.

The stupid syllabus and 10 chapter’s thing should go and emphasis should be on making the kids understand the concepts better. In that way we aren’t memorizing but understanding what those things in the book mean. When I came to the US I felt that the things we are good at are actually miniscule as we are poor at actual practical implementation of concepts. We keep reading books and vomit it onto the paper and most of us don’t understand what we write. Parents should question the schools when they say your son/daughter don’t cut it as it is not true. The fact is that the teachers and school don’t have the patience to work on your kid. If the tuition teacher is able to get the desired result then you know where is problem is. If India needs to produce quality professionals and not just the quantity then this has to change.

Education is a rat race in India

Education in India is not for the faint hearted. In the last week alone we had three students killing themselves due to the pressure of education in India. It’s really unfortunate that these kids had to resort to such extreme at a very young age. Education in India has always been this way, pressure filled. There are counseling sessions in India for the 12th STD students right after the results are announced to stop them from taking any extreme measures. The kids are made to believe that their life hinges on those scores and the system makes sure it does.

Kids are pushed harder and harder which makes education like taking a cough syrup in India. Lots of kids in India just despise education because of the pressure involved. The system is designed in such a way that the only thing which matters is the marks and the rank you get in classes. If what my teachers during my school days thought about me were true, I wouldn’t be where I am. Every kid cannot be the same and the parents and teachers should realize that. What can we make of an education system which awards the student who mugs up the text books the most?

Teachers praise those students to no end. So who is to blame for this outdated system? Is it the government or the parents who don’t realize that you don’t have to win every race to become a champion or is it the teacher who thinks the kid who best vomits the contents in the book on to a white paper is the most brilliant student. Kids get judged based on the marks they get even outside their schools. If someone fails in couple of subjects he is considered to be a bad influence on other kids.

Education is India’s wealth, we are known all around the world as brilliant people, techies and what not which makes me proud but at the same time we have to consider the fall outs too. Education is very important but it does not take precedence over a human life. There is place for everyone in this world to survive and succeed. You don’t have to be the most brilliant student to achieve greater things in life.

Teachers can help the kid to get better which not many of them try. Good teachers know to bring the best of their students but unfortunately we hardly have a hand full of them throughout the country. It’s not the system but the society and culture in our country which keeps kids in schools. If given an option India would also have similar situation to one in the US.

Lots of things have changed with time and that’s how it has to be. People and system evolve with changing times; the education system needs to evolve. Education should make kids curious, experiment, be creative and learn with interest which is hardly the case in India. Instead we teach our kids jealousy, competition, hatred etc at a very young age.

I watched “3 idiots” recently and it got me thinking that our system creates more Chaturs (A character in the movie who symbolizes most students in India) rather than aspiring to create more Aamirs (I can’t recollect his actual name in the movie). When that happens, our education system would be a better place for everyone no matter what marks and rank they get.

Teachers can make school a better place to learn

When I think back at my school days, the memories are not that pleasant. School days are the most important part of anybody’s life. School not only gives you education but in many ways teaches the way of life. A kid spends most of his time at School in a day. I was one of the kids who hated the thought of going to school. It’s unfortunate that I felt that way. Schools in India do not make life that easy for the kids.

Schools in India teach you lots of things other than providing education, competition, jealousy, frustration and hatred. India has one of the best curriculums in the world and one of the best basic educations but the implementation needs lot to be desired. The problem in India is that education is all about the marks and not the knowledge. The pressure on the students is enormous starting from a very early age.

Teachers don’t make life easy for the kids either. They punish, scream, humiliate and make life miserable for the kids who are not in their words “brilliant”. I never found a need to read someone’s marks out loud in front of the entire classroom. There was Botany teacher who actually hit the kids who failed with a cane when giving the papers. He not only did that for the kids who failed but also to someone who scored less than 50 (40 being the pass mark). Did he do that for the welfare of the kids? I will never know.

Some teachers are so predictable as at one point the kids are just resigned to the fact that this is what is going to happen if they don’t do something right. Some teachers get sadistic pleasure in punishing the kids. There was a teacher in my school who used to smile every time she hit someone. It was disgusting. I am not saying every teacher is like that but some of them are. The rage, the anger and the complete lack of rational thinking was something I noticed from some teachers during my school days.

I still remember the occasion when I was beaten and punished so badly for something I never did in the first place. This happened when my entire class was getting punished and we were asked to go to the school ground and run a couple of laps as a punishment. I had braces in my teeth at that time and I had the habit of touching my mouth all the times as it can be really painful. Our vice-principal at that time caught hold of me and started hitting me like anything thinking that I was covering my laugh. He never listened to what I had to say and made me kneel down entire day in front of my class.

My friends knew that I do that all the time but even if I had laughed, did I deserve such extreme punishment? I am not sure but few people might think I did. But I always felt that no one has to hit a kid to teach him/her a lesson. Well later that week I went over to his office to get permission to take a day off to meet my dentist and he realized his mistake and apologized to me, but I felt the damage was done. I guess there is something about few teachers in India which makes them a scary image for the students. They get angry easily and if they do, then only god can save the kids. Sometimes it feels like the teachers are like a volcano ready to erupt. They try to vent out all their frustration and anger at the first opportunity they get and unfortunately the students bear the brunt. Punishment can be without being physical and still be effective. It’s almost as if we learn as a kid that hitting someone is okay if they have done something wrong. That is hardly a good example for the kids to follow.

Teachers I feel need to be an inspiration for the kids, the people we look up to for knowledge and guidance. They need not be friends with the kids but have to be the people whom the kids respect. I felt that a good teacher always gets a better result from the kids. I have been out of school for about 12 years now and still when I think back I hardly have any pleasant memories from my days there. My father was a Bank employee and we had to move around a lot and for some reason I had same experiences throughout my school life wherever I was.

I don’t think that things have changed much in India as an 11 year old died after being punished by a teacher at school recently. This is atrocious and I hope that the authorities put to end such corporal punishments. School is not the place for someone to show their personal frustrations and anger. This is an unfortunate incident and my sympathies and prayers are with the beleaguered parents. I hope that parents take the kids seriously when they complain of abuse by the teacher and don’t ignore such things.

As far as I am concerned it doesn’t have to be that way. I was an average student at school, went through the system as a back bencher but did okay in the long run. I wouldn’t credit anyone other than my parents and the society we grow in for my success. Education is an important part of a person’s life and it doesn’t have to be a painful experience for kids.

Teachers are the important cogs in the wheel of our educational system and they can make learning a memorable experience for the kids. I am not against schools and obviously not against education but school shouldn’t be a place where the kids are scared to go. Teachers need a way to punish kids who are unruly but physical punishment isn’t an answer to it. Parents also need to get more involved in this process. If a child complains of a beating they have to confront the teacher and ask him/her whether they can help avoiding such things in the future. They have to realize that it’s not always the kids fault.

Tuition Teachers Vs School teachers


Over the weekend I was watching Star Vijay channel and on Sunday I stumbled upon an interesting debate show called “Neeya?Naana?” (You? Me?). To give you all a background on this show, its basically a debate show between two sets of people on a particular topic. This week the topic was kind of interesting as it was Tuition Teachers against School Teachers. This is an ongoing debate in India as most of the parents think that sending their kids to private tuitions is the way to go. The school teachers on the other hand say that the lack of attention from the students in the classroom is due to the fact that they go to tuition after the school.

The topic was kind of interesting but the one thing that bothered me was the absence of a student angle to the debate. The base of this discussion were the students and not involving them was kind of a dampner on the show. As I was watching the show there were so many questions that came to my mind as a viewer. Being educated in a system which puts so much emphasis on your marks rather than the knowledge aquired by the students, it was hard for me to agree with the School teachers defence on the topic.

The argument from both sides went something like this, the School teachers said that going to tuition is affecting the student’s concentration in the class and the Tuition teachers hit back saying that its due to inefficient teachers in the schools the students come to them. Personally for me I dont have any fond memories of a classroom in India. In India education is a major business and with it comes lots of competition. In schools the teachers want instant results. Not many teachers want to spend enough time with a kid having trouble with studies.

Teachers in India dont want to listen to criticizm of any kind from anyone. They have lots of ego and it was kind of funny that in the talk show they teachers said that the students are in their control. There is so much emphasis on the marks scored by the students the parents think that their only option is to put the kids in private tuitions. Few private schools in India have decided to fight the competition by only admitting students who are toppers already. I was also shocked to hear from the teachers in the debate saying that they admit kids only if their parents are educated.

These are new developments in an already outdated education system in India. The reason for the parents to trust private tuitions is because there are very few teachers in schools who concentrate on making students understand the concepts. The aim of the teachers is to just complete the syllabus assigned for a particular class for that year. The tuition teachers are not any different either as their main aim is to get the kid over the line to get money. All in all members of both the groups dont impart any knowledge to the kids but yes they tell them how to pass in an exam.

Teachers escape from their duties by complaining to the parents about the kid. When the parents hear the complaints from the teachers in the school they think the ultimate solution is to approach a private tuition teacher. If the teachers can also provide a solution for the problem faced by the kid along with the complaints then probably parents will not think about tuition teachers. The problem is that none of the teachers have a clue about the issues faced by the kid. The problem is that most of the school teachers themselves are part time tuition teachers which made me laugh when they were arguing with each other on the show.

The Indian education system already puts lots of pressure on the kids to perform as marks they score funnily enough determines how intelligent they are. Their fate most of the time is decided in the 3 hours they spend in the examination hall. To top it all there is always constant comparisons between different induviduals by the parents and the others around them.

I was one of the so called average student during my school days and faced my share of humiliations and beatings. I was also the victim of the after school tuition torture. My father was also called by my teacher for complaints and you can only imagine what happened to me after I came home that day. Inspite of all that I am currently a Masters degree holder in US with great scores and work in a big software firm.

Kids in India are not to be blamed here ,its just the system and the non availability of enough good teachers are responsible for this situation. Teachers should understand that hitting and humiliating the kids in front of their mates isnt going to help their confidence either. I may be coming accross as another complaining student but the fact is that I really respected my professors during my masters here in US and understood how students should be actually treated.

Well I dont think the situation in India is going to improve a great deal in the future. So finally my verdict on the debate is that both the School Teachers and the tuition teachers are not doing any favours for the kids. India has one of the best tried and trusted curriculam but the system surrounding it isnt that great. Teachers are not hand picked and there are hardly any good ones around. Schools and Private tuitions are a way of making money and they are equally not that worried about the students to be honest. Both are worried about getting 100% results to get their names popular with the people to get more money.

Tuition Teachers Vs School teachers

Modern Indian classroom

Modern Indian classroom

Over the weekend I was watching Star Vijay channel and on Sunday I stumbled upon an interesting debate show called “Neeya?Naana?” (You? Me?). To give you all a background on this show, its basically a debate show between two sets of people on a particular topic. This week the topic was kind of interesting as it was Tuition Teachers against School Teachers. This is an ongoing debate in India as most of the parents think that sending their kids to private tuitions is the way to go. The school teachers on the other hand say that the lack of attention from the students in the classroom is due to the fact that they go to tuition after the school.

The topic was kind of interesting but the one thing that bothered me was the absence of a student angle to the debate. The base of this discussion were the students and not involving them was kind of a dampner on the show. As I was watching the show there were so many questions that came to my mind as a viewer. Being educated in a system which puts so much emphasis on the marks rather than the knowledge aquired by the students, it was hard for me to agree with the School teachers defence on the topic.

The argument from both sides went something like this, the School teachers said that going to tuition is affecting the student’s concentration in the class and the Tuition teachers hit back saying that its due to inefficient teachers in the schools the students come to them. Personally for me I dont have any fond memories of a classroom in India. In India education is a major business and with it comes lots of competition. In schools the teachers want instant results. Not many teachers want to spend enough time with a kid having trouble with studies.

Teachers in India dont want to listen to criticizm of any kind from anyone. They have lots of ego and it was kind of funny that in the talk show they teachers said that the students are in their control. There is so much emphasis on the marks scored by the students the parents think that their only option is to put the kids in private tuitions. Few private schools in India have decided to fight the competition by only admitting students who are toppers already. I was also shocked to hear from the teachers in the debate saying that they admit kids only if their parents are educated.

These are new developments in an already outdated education system in India. The reason for the parents to trust private tuitions is because there are very few teachers in schools who concentrate on making students understand the concepts. The aim of the teachers is to just complete the syllabus  assigned for a particular class for that year. The tuition teachers are not any different either as their main aim is to get the kid over the line to get money. All in all members of both the groups dont impart any knowledge to the kids but yes they tell them how to pass in an exam.

Teachers escape from their duties by complaining to the parents about the kid. When the parents hear the complaints from the teachers in the school they think the ultimate solution is to approach a private tuition teacher. If the teachers can also provide a solution for the problem faced by the kid along with the complaints then probably parents will not think about tuition teachers. The problem is that none of the teachers have a clue about the issues faced by the kid.  The problem is that most of the school teachers themselves are part time tuition teachers which made me laugh when they were arguing with each other on the show.

The Indian education system already puts lots of pressure on the kids to perform as marks they score funnily enough determines how intelligent they are. Their fate most of the time is decided in the 3 hours they spend in the examination hall. To top it all there is always constant comparisons between different induviduals by the parents and the others around them.

I was one of the so called average student during my school days and faced my share of humiliations and beatings. I was also the victim of the after school tuition torture. My father was also called by my teacher for complaints and you can only imagine what happened to me after I came home that day. Inspite of all that I am currently a Masters degree holder in US with great scores and work in a big software firm.

Kids in India are not to be blamed here ,its just the system and the non availability of enough good teachers are responsible for this situation. Teachers should understand that hitting and humiliating the kids in front of their mates isnt going to help their confidence either. I may be coming accross as another complaining student but the fact is that I really respected my professors during my masters here in US and understood how students should be actually treated.

Well I dont think the situation in India is going to improve a great deal in the future. So finally my verdict on the debate is that both the School Teachers and the tuition teachers are not doing any favours for the kids. India has one of the best tried and trusted curriculam but the system surrounding it isnt that great. Teachers are not hand picked and there are hardly any good ones around. Schools and Private tuitions are a way of making money and they are equally not that worried about the students to be honest. Both are worried about getting 100% results to get their names popular with the people to get more money.