Trigonometry, yes. But what about learning how to mediate when two loved ones quarrel? is a disconnection. But what about the art of introspection? Conjugated French verbs, yes. But what about investment, insurance and planning financiers? The school years can seem endless. But perhaps if these life lessons were added to the curriculum, they would have found it more interesting.
All over the world, young people are dealing with anxiety, self-loathing, depression and the pressure to excel while playing on reels and posts for the best life. Yet, even few schools in India acknowledge that mental health is essential to a person’s well-being.
“People don’t take mental health seriously, so they don’t feel the need to teach students about it,” says Divija Bhasin, a psychologist who goes by @awkwardgoat3 on social media. “The definition of mental health in many schools is ‘do yoga and get up on time’. We trivialize the problems of young people and say ‘They’re just kids. What can be stressed to them?’ There is no government-level mandate to teach mental health subjects.”
Mental-health lessons in school not only help students cope with growing up, it also makes for more stable adults. Bhasin says, “Subjects become more complex as students grow, so subjects should be taught at all levels. “It should cover consent, boundaries, discrimination, stress triggers, assertiveness, a little about disorders, the science behind mental health, suicide prevention, therapy, anxiety, stress responses and how to talk about one’s feelings.”
Imagine going to a school where every teacher knows what causes stress, which students struggle with anxiety, and what causes fights on the playground. And coming home from school and being able to express a bad lesson, a difficult day or a school threat with parents. Imagine that parents are involved enough in lesson planning that they are trained to decode outbursts or mood swings at home. “If adults were more aware, students would be too,” says Bhasin.
Much of India’s educated class struggles with simple financial tasks – young employees don’t know what to do with their new income, household budgets stump newlyweds, mid-career people don’t know what to do with risk management. And that includes those who go to good schools.
Most Indian states have agreed to include financial literacy programs developed by the Reserve Bank of India and other authorities in their school curricula. We still don’t know if it’s good enough.
“Financial literacy is a life skill that needs to be developed early,” says Vishal Dhawan, founder and CEO of Plan Ahead Wealth Advisors. There should also be practical education. “Students learn from mistakes, and it’s important that they learn not to make those mistakes in the real world. We need practical education.”
Dhawan also believes that the curriculum should help students learn to communicate better and think critically. “If one has to decide whether to buy a mutual fund or an insurance policy, there should be a role-playing situation in which students learn the right questions to ask,” he says. “Students in India are taught answers to questions, not how to ask the right questions.”
In the Netherlands, school sex education is required by law. By age four, children are taught about relationships, appropriate touch, and intimacy. At the age of seven, they are taught the proper names of different body parts. A year later, they discuss gender stereotypes. By the time they reach age 11, they deal with other topics such as sex education and have open discussions about sexual diversity, fertility, safe sex and abuse.
It’s done. The Dutch are among the top users of birth control pills. They have the lowest rates of teenage pregnancy. They report their first sexual experience as positive. They have lower rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
In contrast, there is no national mandate for sex ed in schools in India. “In an ideal world, all schools worldwide should provide age-appropriate and inclusive comprehensive sexuality education, focusing not only on the basics of health and reproduction, but also on gender, sexual orientation, consent and pleasure, relationship skills and media literacy. “Focus on sexual health and sex positivity Leeza Mangaldas, creator of Focusing Materials, says:
It helps teach younger generations the value of consent and helps children understand that they can and should speak up against unwanted touching or abuse. “In the Internet age, learning about sex from porn is like learning to drive by watching Fast and the Furious,” she says.
Lessons cannot be based on fear and shame, or focus on abstinence. “Taboos around sex and sexuality serve no one,” she says. “They create and perpetuate a culture of shame and silence. People are reluctant to speak out about their experiences of sexual violence, to seek contraception and other sexual health services.”
Remember PT class? Was it about marching in formation, a mandatory sprint, some exercise or something the kids could use in adulthood? Ankit Gautam, founder of health club chain, Fitness Express, says that while physical education is a necessary break for desk-bound students, there is a lack of knowledge. “Kids are not told why they are exercising. So, eventually, they lose interest.”
Class doesn’t have to be just about basic movements. “Kids also need an awareness of human anatomy, nutrition and diet,” he says. or teach about PCOD.
It’s also easy to make fun. “Kids want to play sports, not just suffer through PT classes. And we can only do that by exposing them to different activities: cricket, boxing, badminton, or sports injury classes,” he says. “Kids often don’t listen when parents tell them to be more active. But maybe, coming from an expert, it can make a difference. ”
From HT Brunch, May 13, 2023
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