Pariksha Pe Charcha 2024Holistic development of personality, mental health and well-being in school education

Prachi Pandey
In general, theoretically, we focus on stress-coping models while practically, we give advice on various stress-coping strategies. However, an important question, i.e the question of how to help students develop the capabilities  to deal  with academic  stress and  develop constructive coping strategies remains unanswered. Another equally important issue is how to create an environment wherein there are adequate triggers for motivation while stress does not assume debilitating proportions and starts to adversely impact performance.
Creating a stress-free school environment that prioritizes mental health and well-being involves adopting a holistic, enjoyable and engaging curriculum and pedagogy in schools. This would involve designing a curriculum that is balanced and age appropriate. The National Curriculum Framework for School Education (2023) also recommends time allocation in school schedules and specifies specific learning requirements to be completed, placing a renewed emphasis on art, physical education, and wellbeing. Furthermore, maintaining good health and well-being is one of the development goals of the National Curriculum Frame- work for Foundational Stage (2022). Consequently, it employs “play,” which is important to the conceptual, practical, and transactional approaches to pedagogy, time and content organization, curriculum structure, and the child’s overall experience.
NEP 2020 propagates providing students with plenty of opportunities for participation in sports, arts clubs, eco-clubs, community service projects, etc. Additionally, NEP 2020 emphasizes that each student will participate in an enjoyable course, chosen by the State and local community and based on local skilling needs, that provides an overview and practical experience of significant vocational crafts, such as carpentry, electric work, metal work, gardening, and pottery making, among others, during Grades 6–8.
On November 24, 2020, a Policy on School Bag document was developed with an emphasis on lowering the weight of school bags which is being implemented by States and UTs. Further, a number of educational institutions have implemented “No Bags Day,” an initiative that encourages students to leave their bags at home on certain days.
Creating a positive learning environment requires re-inforcing capacity building of teachers on stress management. On a similar note, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) developed a complete package named “Training and Resource Material: Health and Wellness of School-going Children” as part of the School Health Programme under Ayushman Bharat. It includes a dedicated module on “Emotional Well-Being and Mental Health” which delineates activities pertaining to teachers’ and students’ mental health and wellbeing. NCERT has also been proactively working to improve the ability of educators and counselors to provide children with emotional and mental health support, as well as assistance in overcoming fear and developing coping mechanisms. The Diploma Course in Guidance and Counselling (DCGC), is another resourceful initiative which uses a teacher-counselor paradigm to enable teachers to assist students with academic, personal, and career- related concerns in addition to their teaching duties.
One of the Exam Warrior mantra is that ‘Exams test your current preparation, Not You’. Thus, transforming assessment for student development through a multidimensional report that reflects the uniqueness of each learner, peer support and mentoring, is a vital step towards making assessment and evaluation positive and a healthy tool for improvement.  
In India, as in any other part of the world, incorporating subjects related to mental health and well-being, into the fabric of the school eco-system is crucial for various reasons. First of all, focusing on mental health in school education can contribute to bridging the rural and urban disparities and ensuring the all students have access to support. A Mental Health Survey for school students was carried out by the Ministry of Education in light of the NEP 2020, which places a strong emphasis on students’ mental health and well-being in order to promote holistic development.  Emotions of exclusion and loneliness can be made worse by stress. An atmosphere free from stress fosters inclusion, guaranteeing that every student, regardless of background, ability, or diversity, feels supported and welcomed. Towards this end, NEP 2020 encourages putting in place a counselling system in educational institutions for handling stress and emotional adjustments.
Today, with the changing economic landscape and the rise of technology, students need not only academic knowledge but also life skills. Objective and moderate use of technology can have positive outcomes. Mental health education can equip students with skills such as resilience, adaptability, and effective communication to counter negative impact.  Moreover, considering the cultural, linguistic, and socio-economic diversity, prioritizing mental health will not only help promote inclusivity but also ensure that the mental well-being of all students is considered, irrespective of their background. Through the “Manodarpan” campaign, which includes a variety of activities with proactive and preventive mental health and well-being services integrated into the mainstream of learning processes, the Ministry of Education is providing psychological assistance for mental health and emotional welfare to families, teachers, and students both during and after the Covid outbreak.
In summary, a stress-free education is critical to creating a supportive and positive learning environment that supports emotional health, academic achievement, and the acquisition of critical life skills. It prepares students for possibilities and challenges in the future by laying the groundwork for a sound and balanced approach to education. Therefore, it is highly essential that teachers, administrators, parents, and policy makers come together to create a stress-free education for the mental health and well-being of all students. One such innovative interactive program is Pariksha Pe Charcha, which unites educators, parents, students, and the community to create an environ- ment where each child’s distinct individuality is valued, nurtured, and celebrated. The Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Naren-dra Modi has been spearheading this unique campaign for the past six years with the goal of fostering a stress-free environ- ment for youth. The writer is Joint Secretary, MoE (Views expressed are personal) PIB