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11 August 2014

Work Life Balance? Tell that to a Class X Student in India...

Countless are the number of articles that I have read and the number of videos that I have watched which relates to the topic of 'Work Life' Balance.

Most of them talk about the rampant intrusion of technology into their personal lives and how it has made it possible for their bosses to be in their bedroom. The theme of all those articles is that we should strive to achieve a balance between our 'Work' and our 'Life outside of work'. The implicit assumption is that we can easily bifurcate our time, that there is a line of separation, between our 'Work Time' and 'Other Time'.

As per all those articles, 'Work Life Balance' is good and is necessary.

Tell that to a kid studying in Class X in India...

Here is the story of a typical Class X student. For the purpose of this article, let us say it is a boy.

Currently he is studying in 10th Standard in a school here in India. The school follows CBSE Syllabus. The syllabus has three parts. Part 1 is the Scholastic Skills. Part 2 and Part 3 are what are known as Co-scholastic skills, which were recently introduced by CBSE, with the ostensible objective of making Indian children all rounders and Jack of all trades.

The Scholastic part of the course, though tough, is manageable. The challenge is when you mix Co-scholastic activities with the scholastic activities. He has the following co-scholastic activities.

1. Life skills: This deals with the psychological and emotional development of the child. The school conducts something called ECUBE with mandatory attendance
2. IAYP: I forgot the expansion of the abbreviation, but this deals with the development of Social consciousness in the child. As a part of IAYP, he is expected to spend 24 hours in a year on voluntary social activity. This typical Indian kid has taken up teaching disabled kids one hour every week as the activity
3. Arts and crafts: This included performance arts. This boy is studying Carnatic Music as a part of this program. The teacher is very demanding. Since the teacher is very busy, he announces the classes just about 2 hours in advance leaving the boy's schedule into disarray
4. Sports activities including Yoga classes
5. First aid lessons,,.

All of the above have their own attached homework and he is expected to maintain regular records.

In addition, as  a part of his regular scholastic work, he has to do at least 8 Formative Assessments and 2 Summative Assessments every year for each subject. With 7 subjects, including 2 languages, this works out 70 assessments in a year of about 9 academic months, which works out to almost 8 assessments in a month.

Add to that the fact that he is now in Class X and like the typical Indian kid, he is expected to join either Engineering or Medicine in some leading institute in India. To supplement his regular studies, he has enrolled for special studies in an Institute which trains him on clearing the highly competitive Engineering and Medicine entrance examinations (these Institutes have their own entrance examinations !), which conducts parallel classes and assessments on the main subjects of Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. The classes are held in the school on all days of the week including Saturday after class hours. 

And of course, these Institutes have their own classwork and homework which are more demanding than the regular school classwork and homework.

The typical Indian kid, leaves for school at 7 AM and returns at around 6.00 PM. Immediately afterwords he starts on his homework. After that he is expected to do regular studies. He is expected to study till about 10 PM. (the key word is 'expected', which is different from 'actual) On Saturdays he attends the special classes held by the training institute in the mornings and music sessions in the evening with weekend homework thrown in for good measure !.

On Sundays, he goes for the Social Work and comes back and continues on his pending homework.

Recently, I attended a parent-teacher session conducted by the school where they exhorted the kids to take their annual vacation in the summer of 2015 and for next two years focus only on their studies !

As I mentioned, I hear a lot of people talking about 'Work Life Balance'. People complain about their work having invaded their entire life leaving them little time for their personal life.

Well, try telling that to a kid studying in Class X in India...