The mid-term exam syndrome

he end of year marks the time of rising stress among small children, teenagers and their worried mothers. Middle of term examinations become the only topic of discussion across the lobbies and courtyards of schools and family gatherings.

You find grim-faced ladies chasing tuition centres or trying to get the contacts of tutors, attending hurriedly-arranged parent-teacher meetings to get the progress reports of their offspring. Their pouncing on the school managements to issue the examination schedule and detailed syllabus well ahead of time is also a common sight. Meanwhile, the teachers are interrogated about the weaknesses of students, the reasons behind the problems they are having and possible remedials.

Many households declare an internal curfew until the conclusion of the exams. Utmost discipline, quietness and anxiety are observed all around. So overwhelmed are the children and their concerned mothers by the exam syndrome that they fall sick or become total nervous wreaks during this time.

While it is appropriate to prepare for all examinations, it is quite unnecessary to create a life and death situation out of it. In the normal course of academic routines, a half-yearly or mid-term examination is designed to check and monitor the level of attainment of each child up to the middle mark of the academic year. It helps in estimating the understanding of courses and topics taught by the teachers. At the same time it also provides a structured opportunity for young students to demonstrate their ability of expression and problem solving.

Performance in the examination reveals a child's various shortcomings. Inaccurate understanding of questions, improper phrasing of answers, inability to manage the time, memory and understanding problems, conceptual and procedural errors in scientific/quantitative subjects and lack of concentration are a few common disorders routinely seen in our children. Whereas examinations evolve fear, they are extremely useful for focussing on the apparent shortcomings. A balanced and rational approach in managing school work and the examination sylla-bus can make life much simpler for both the worried stakeholders.

Examinations must be dealt through the perspective of reality. Most children have some handicaps reflected in their performance. While parents and children must work towards improving these shortcomings, examinations are not really the time to focus on such problems with an expectation of extraordinary results.

For instance, if a child is having problems with oral or written expression, he may be advised to prepare for the exams with the same shortcoming as an unavoidable constraint. Simpler and shorter sentences, basic communication and the emphasis to narrate in full whatever is asked in a question may be the approach.

Many children suffer from lack of confidence in their preparation or in the ability to perform well in examinations. Teachers and parents can help by constantly building up the confidence level of the students and working around the core of their shortcoming. Poor handwriting, undeveloped language skills and absence of quick thinking and responding abilities may be at the root of the problem. Each of such predicaments must be faced and the solutions worked out without shying away from them. Coaching students to strategize their studies, revisions and practice sessions are also useful. For younger children in junior and middle-level classes, the parents can sit with them to help prepare them according to the syllabus. Children must be asked to tag all such topics for understanding and practice before the annual or final examinations.

The home environment plays an extraordinary role, too. A tense and scolding mother, a grim-faced father and scared to death children display dwindling prospects for success. Parents, especially the mothers, would do well to behave as a sporting coachógiving positive vibes and reinforcing their children's confidence in their abilities.

Routines for examinations do demand adjustments but within rational limits. Study hours must be enhanced, however, the parents must lake care that their playing and sleeping times arc not compromised. The diet also must be kept simple but nourishing. Children must be asked to refrain from greasy or spicy snacks that may make them sick. Watching TV must be significantly curtailed. And the children must be encouraged to share their fears and problems throughout this period.

The parents must become the source of encouragement and pillars of hope to let their children perform to the best of their abilities. Greater care is needed for children with learning disabilities, signs and symptoms of dyslexia, Asperger or Autism. Medical and psychological instructions by competent professionals can help to a sizeable extent. It must be remembered otherwise that these exams are not the end of the world.