Can you pick tomorrow’s future leaders out of the bunch of kids? It’s not necessarily just the bossy ones should be picked. Think about the real leaders in your daily life, and what qualities they exhibit. Those that lead by example, encourage others to do better, and bring others together to work towards a common goal. Those may seem like lofty qualities to find in small children, but if you look closely, you will see some that do exhibit those very qualities.
28 boys of class XII from a Darjeeling school passed their board examinations in 2007, they were given a unique certificate of merit — that of “honesty”. The reason: they desisted from cheating, even in the face of temptation, for two whole years.
St Joseph’s, Darjeeling, better known as North Point, considered to be one of the elite residential schools in India, will continue giving the example of this class for years to come.
School principal, Father Kinley Tshering, had challenged senior students two years ago, asking if they could promise to write their exams without invigilation. If they accepted the challenge they would not talk or cheat in the examination hall, though they would not be monitored by the faculty. No class was allowed to take up the challenge, unless every boy had agreed to assume responsibility for himself and his class.
It took a long while for any class to come up to the principal and say it was ready for the test and for a while Tshering thought the idea, which was basically his way of teaching value education to kids, had fizzled out.
“Finally boys of class XI commerce section, who are now in class XII, came up to me and said they were ready. I asked them if every boy had agreed to the experiment, because even if a single boy had not been taken into confidence, he would be under no obligation to comply and that would defeat my purpose,” said Tshering.
Even the relatively weaker boys agreed and said they were ready. This was just ahead of the terminal examination and teachers were told not to invigilate any of the exams that class XI commerce boys wrote, he added.
Since then the class has been writing all their exams, including annual examinations, without any supervision from teachers. The boys themselves collect question papers from the staff room, distribute these among the examinees, take responsibility of finishing the paper on time, collect the scripts and give them back to teachers for assessment.
“It’s not that we have just left it to the boys and have not bothered to keep a vigil, but we have done it without the boys’ knowledge. Every time we found the boys seriously writing. We have even purposely given tricky papers at times just by way of a bait, but even then the boys did not talk or try to cheat.
“I was happy to see that while the bright ones, about six of them, scored beyond 90%, the marks of the average boys or the weaker ones did not change dramatically, which is proof enough of the boys’ honesty,” Tshering said.
The Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations, Delhi, which conducts the ISC examinations, is aware of this experiment. “Though we will not be able to let the boys write their ISC examination without invigilators, it sure is a commendable effort,” said an official from Delhi. But what is better news is that the boys in general are so excited that now even class XI science and class X have met the principal and pledged that they are ready for the challenge.
Whoever said “Great leaders are made not born” was on the right track. Taking the initiative, making suggestions, providing direction, being sympathetic to the problems of others are all characteristics that can make great leaders. And fortunately, here is an example of behavior that can be encouraged in our children.