Examinations are still the cause of tremendous anxiety for the millions of children going through the rigours of an Indian education system that determines an individual’s capabilities from their test scores.
The new term of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government began with the release of a draft, but well-intentioned, National Education Policy that aims to tackle the source of this anxiety.
But Indian bureaucratic red-tape is likely to ensure this plan could take a while to see the light of day, so some parents of young Indian children are taking no chances.
They are relying on Indian tradition - the ancient technique of yoga and meditation - to help their children cope with academic stress.
At Loving Centre for Transformation (LCT) in Ahmedabad in Prime Minister Modi’s home state of Gujarat, many boys and girls in their teens and younger can be seen practising yoga postures as part of a programme that also includes painting, painting, dancing or other playful activities.
“Our programs are non-religious, 100 per cent scientific, educative yet full of fun and are aimed at unfolding the kids’ inner potential,” said LCT founder Ronak Gandhi who has made elaborate plans for celebrating the International Yoga Day this Friday.
“They learn to deal with fear, anger, stress, isolation and frustration to finally achieve their goals,” he added.
If Mumbai-based housewife Jesal Udeshi who has studied child psychology, is to be believed, meditation can actually change the structure and function of the brain, and they not only change brain patterns but also heighten mental focus that could improve the cognitive performance.
“If you actually practise meditation, you will start enjoying your life more, your brain will function better, your body will feel better, you get sick less often,” she said.
Poojaba Jadeja Zala, who is doing a doctorate in Karma Yoga, said that Taadsana, Sarvangasana and Omkar Pranayam were easy postures for the young, and stressed the need for harnessing meditation and mindfulness from an early age.
“Any quiet place is good enough for kiddos for silent sitting. Meditation promotes mental well-being through concentration, breathing techniques and self-awareness and can work wonders for schoolers submerged in smartphones and other gizmos by helping them beat tough competition,” she said.
Kolkata-based amateur trainer Sujan Bhattacharya claimed three or four weeks of 20-minute daily meditation could help children achieve better results in studies as well as outdoor games.
Bhattacharya said that all his students had felt a surge in their mental strength, energy, and confidence levels, a newly-found unshakeable self-belief and development of an overall positive attitude.
State governments like Uttar Pradesh in India, following a nationwide appeal by the Prime Minister, himself an aficionado of the ancient practice, are already including yoga in the school curriculum.
There is little doubt that the techniques of Yoga and meditation are effective in helping children cope with an unyielding and myopic system of learning. But parents need to be careful in their choice of institutions because the demand to learn has also led to a rise in centres run by fake proponents of the ancient art.
“The government should crack the whip on fake gurus out to make money hand over fist with their half-baked knowledge,” said Imran Khan Salat, who just passed out of India’s first government-accredited, full-fledged, self-funded private yoga university, Lakulish, near Ahmedabad.