Pandemic taught children lessons on value of essential things, says PM Modi

It strengthened emotional bonds between family members, he says in Pariksha Pe Charcha.

Though students missed a year of school life and interaction with their teachers and friends due to COVID-19, the pandemic has also taught them many lessons about the true value of essential things and strengthened the emotional bonds between family members at a time of social distancing, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday.

He was responding to the only question related to the pandemic in his interaction with students through a virtual Pariksha Pe Charcha event, despite the fact that social media saw a section of students clamouring for examinations to be cancelled due to the spike in cases. In fact, this is the first time that Mr. Modi’s annual pre-examination event was held completely online due to pandemic restrictions.

With cases crossing the one lakh a day mark — significantly higher than the level of infection last March when several board examinations were cancelled — a section of students and parents have urged that students’ safety be considered the highest priority. The hashtag #cancelboardexams2021 was one of the top five Twitter trends on Tuesday and Wednesday, with almost seven lakh tweets. Others wanted examinations to be postponed or held online to reduce the risk of infection.

However, the Central Board of Secondary Education has reiterated that examinations will be held offline, starting May 4. Students who support the exams being held on schedule have argued on Twitter that they do not wish to risk losing an academic year, and that a year’s experience of COVID-19 safety protocols will protect test-takers.

During the Pariksha pe Charcha event, Mr. Modi also offered study tips and advice on reducing tension in the examination hall. Responding to one student’s query on memory tips, the Prime Minister urged her to focus on internalising knowledge rather than rote memorisation. “You learned your mother tongue naturally, because the things that become a part of you are never forgotten,” he told the student from Rajasthan.

The dominant language of the largely pre-recorded interaction was Hindi, though Mr. Modi responded with the Tamil greeting, ‘Vanakkam’ to a student from Kanyakumari who spoke in English. He also asked a student from Assam how she learned to speak such good Hindi.

Not all questions were directly related to examinations. In response to food-related questions from parents in Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, Mr. Modi encouraged them to feed their children with healthy, traditional recipes, and also educate them about the ingredients and cooking process behind their meals.

He also urged parents not to instil fear in their children regarding examinations, as such negative motivations were not useful in the long run.

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