Navigating the big leap

Addressing the common problems faced by students in making the transition from Class 10 to Class 11-12

A major transition in the life of a school student in our society is the transition from class 10 to classes 11-12. Most students approach this stage with a certain degree of trepidation and uncertainty. This is often compounded by the uncertainty in the minds of parents and family members about the capabilities and inclinations of their child and their expectations of their child.

Most children are of the age of 15 or 16 by this time. They are adolescents or young adults. The overwhelming dilemma in their minds is whether they are children or adults. This is reflected in their behaviour, their rebelliousness towards the parents on the one hand, and their insecurity in facing the world and taking responsibility for their own decisions on the other.

Issues of concern:  

The choice of courses in Classes 11-12 is often based on parental expectations and peer pressure, with the student at this stage not quite aware of her/his own potential. This, we have found, over a period of time, often leads to lack of interest in/inclination for the courses chosen. It leads of loss of self-motivation, confusion over priorities, inability to focus/concentrate on academic work, eventually resulting in varying degrees of mental depression.

In a changing domestic and global scenario, with different sectors of the economy and services going through booms and busts, students are constantly faced with uncertainty about viable future pursuits and higher study/career choices. Such concerns have also been seen to lead many of the effects described above.

The age 15-18 is one of enhanced social interaction among peers. It is a stage of rapid natural psychological and physiological development of the child into an adolescent/youth. This is a stage of new physical and mental inclinations and discoveries about oneself and others. These sometimes lead to greater distraction from academics, inattentiveness in class, inability to focus attention on academics, etc.

The academic pressures in Class 11-12 in almost all courses are a big leap over those of Class 9-10. Students and their families are often not prepared for this. Schools do not have adequate facilities for helping students to bridge the gap. The ensuing immediate fall in grades/marks and other indicators of academic progress often lead to drop in self confidence and self-esteem of students. A commonly heard refrain is “I was the school/state/board topper in Class 10, with 99.8%, but in Class 11, I am able to manage barely 50% average”.

The peer pressure resulting from some students who are able to “make it to 90+%” and others who were hitherto toppers but are not able to get there any more, is another terrible blow to the self-esteem of many youth.

Parents too, naturally, get into a great panic over this issue. The first tendency is to blame the school, then their own ward, then finally fall prey to the coaching classes (with which we shall deal separately).

Family/parental pressure to “succeed” in conventional academic/career paths (such as medicine or engineering) is a major factor that continues to affect our youth at this stage, all across the country.

 Due to resulting academic pressure students are often unable to pursue their hobbies and special interests/acquired skills such as music, dance, sports, etc. Many of these avenues for mental relaxation, diversification and alternate creativity therefore get closed, leading to the above effects.

Certain observed (perhaps inevitable) behavioural changes:

Behavioural changes, in varying degrees, that are observed in most youth at this stage, are external manifestations of the storms raging within. Some of these are –

  • resorting to use of various unfair means (cheating in examinations) to avoid upsetting parental/family expectations and loss of self-esteem;
  • rebelliousness, impatience, violent behaviour, decrease in communication with parents, hiding the truth;
  • increase in incidences of abuse of addictive substances (alcohol, drugs, tobacco, etc.);
  • ragging and bullying and unhealthy teasing among peers, with the physically bigger and economically richer students taking out their frustrations on the physically smaller, economically backward students, regardless of the latter often possessing greater academic, intellectual and social skills;
  •  Increased preoccupation and addiction with online gaming, social media and social networking, which is a time-consuming preoccupation and usually a big distraction from academics, sports and other social interactions.

Coaching  classes/tutorial institutes:

It is believed that many aggressively advertised leading private coaching institutes charge about Rs 4-5 lakh for 2-year coaching for engineering and medical entrance tests and up to Rs 7.5 lakh for a four-year preparatory course (starting in class 9). These institutes boast of excellent training facilities and huge successes. However, there is no independent assessment of such claims.

 Studies indicate that the turnover of private coaching centres could be several lakh crore per annum in India. Nearly 40-50 lakh students appear for engineering entrance tests while about 10-20 lakh students sit for medical entrance tests every year. The number of seats accessible in IITs and NITs hovers around 25,000 marks. Approximately only 2% of the candidates who apply for JEE secure admission to the IITs and NITs.

Coaching institutes are big private players in the huge market that Indian society provides today. They have connections in high places in government, including in the framing of educational curricula and examinations. They are a powerful lobby against any kind of government regulation on their work, their unsubstantiated claims or the money they make by preying on the concerns of the students and their parents. It is then small wonder that no government in our country, in the last 25 years, has been able to do anything to control the mushrooming of such institutions. This is inspite of the terribly tragic consequences, such as the overwhelmingly high and growing trend of suicides among youth aspirants in recent years.

Suggestions on mitigating these pressures:

The first point for each student and parent to understand is that “you are not alone”. Therefore, setting up counselling groups among peers and parents’ interaction groups can be useful in sharing experiences and information about possible avenues.

The second point to grasp and internalize, and this is certainly more difficult, is that “your child is not abnormal. The new manifestations are normal…”. The child needs your help, deeper understanding, emotional assurance that you will be with her/him, come what may. As a parent, avoid emotional breakdowns when the child performs poorly in academics or manifests “variant” behaviour. Be patient with the child and keep all channels of communication open…that is most important.

Schools can help by providing qualified and experienced counselling services, as well as training teachers to handle these issues.

I hope these views and suggestions will be useful.

Thank you

Sucharita Basu Kasturi

Physics teacher and author.


Written by Sucharita

I have taught Physics at the Undergraduate level in college as well as in classes 11 and 12 for nearly 40 years. I have also taught Science and Maths in class 9 and 10. I am a subject expert for NEET and JEE Mains examinations. I have authored several books in Science, Physics and General Knowledge.

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