Burnout in schoolchildren takes on alarming extents

Burnout in schoolchildren takes on alarming extents

mk. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has already noticed an alarming increase in burnout symptoms in young schoolchildren in Switzerland. According to the study, every third pupil suffers from burnout symptoms such as headaches, stomach pains, sleep disorders, anxiety attacks, dizziness, and depression.
How can this be explained? Switzerland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, where everyone contributes to prosperity, not just an élite. Health and education systems are well developed. Hardly anyone has to suffer great hardship.
There is no indication that there are greater problems in the families than there were a few years ago. As a rule, parents educate their children lovingly, and a good family life is important to them.
Let us look at the part that makes up a great deal of the lives of children and young people beyond the family: school. To prove oneself in school, to survive is the “profession” of children and young people. Has anything changed here? Thank God the corporal punishment and degrading treatments have been abolished. The schools are usually bright, friendly, clean, warm, and excellently equipped. Not all this was always a matter of course. The teachers are well trained (or at least they should be), they are well paid, so there should be no lack of motivation. There is so much support in the form of curative education, remediation, various therapies as never before. The pupils are usually well nourished, dressed and supported by their parents. So what is missing, or what is wrong?
Let us look at how the teaching processes in many schools actually work today. In more and more classes, the students have to work on the material themselves. They get a short oral introduction by the teacher. Then they work alone on a programme, often on paper, increasingly on the computer. Already primary school pupils, yes, sometimes even pupils in the kindergartens get weekly schedules, which means that they have to work independently for the whole week. They have to work out almost everything themselves, both in terms of subject matters and in terms of content. They are isolated and left alone. If they do not make any progress, they ask a school colleague. Maybe he is just busy with something else or he does not “getting it” either. Well, then there is the teacher. Numerous pupils report that they often wait a long time, until the teacher finally has time. And the five minutes they then spend with the pupil do not come close in quality to 20 or 30 minutes of classroom instruction, in which everyone works together in the whole class teaching, inspiring, encouraging, and prompting each other. Since that is missing, many give up and despair. However, there are also many students who are reluctant to ask the teacher; there is a lack of confidence not to be embarrassed if you do not understand something or do not understand anything at all. So the problem is postponed home. Parents are to help. They are the last hope. Nevertheless, they often do not “get it” either, because today’s teaching materials are often very complicated, a structure of the subject that would be comprehensible is often not offered. So the student goes back to school with the experience “I am unable”, “I do not understand it”. It is enough to drive one to despair. The next exam, however, will certainly come – the programme is scheduled inexorably. The students know that. The exam has already been announced. Is anyone still surprised that children and young people cannot sleep at night, lose confidence in themselves, and their social environment, and go through their lives depressed and with stomach pains?
It is actually only surprising that this is not noticed in public. The “Verein Ostschweizer Kinderärzte” (Association Eastern Switzerland’s Pediatricians) has long pointed out the connection between the increasing somatic afflictions in children and the overextension caused by individualisation. Individualisation is the worst sin of recent school reforms. It not only leaves children who would otherwise like to and joyfully learn in relation to their teachers and school colleagues, who would have success in learning, alone, but also pushes them into despair and hopelessness. Why is the wrong track not recognised and left again? Nothing would be easier than to reintroduce whole class teaching. It would be a rest and a satisfaction for pupils and teachers (and a relief for parents). This change would not even cost money. Only the teacher-students, who have to be trained anyway, would have to be reasonably prepared again for classroom-management, for lessons proceeding in small steps and a method of developing by questions, for an attitude in which every pupil is kept in sight, to take pleasure in every child and its manifestations of life, to involve each into the class community – prepared for a culture, in which learning and not-knowing-yet contribute to a common enrichment.     •
(Translation Current Concerns)

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