How Institutions Built on ‘Pressure based Performance’ or ‘Stress based Learning’ are Killing our Nation!

Rstressecently, I shifted my 7 year old child from a conventional public school to a non-conventional school which follows the same curriculum but a very different approach to the way in which the learning gets imparted. In training parlance, both schools have the same learning content and learning outcome, but the mode of delivery varies. Whereas the previous school relied heavily on memorisation and endless practice, the latter relies heavily on learning by asking, doing and reflecting. The results are very satisfactory – my child seems to be happier, keener to learn and is discovering new things even about concepts learned earlier. To illustrate with an example, while he has known the concept of even and odd numbers for a long time now, its only recently that he discovered (on his own!) that when you subtract an odd number with an even number, the result will always be odd and so also for even numbers.

In the India of the past and to a large extent even today, it is believed that pressure and stress could increase our ability to learn. This is the philosophy behind getting students to scurry from 45-minute to 45-minute cram-for-test sessions, forcing resident students to work over 80 hours a week, and why corporations expect employees to learn and perform at peak levels while  working weekdays and weekends without respite. But the research into the effects of stress on learning is forcing brain-based educators to conclude that the systems favoured by our learning institutions may in themselves produce so much stress that not only is effective learning and creativity compromised but so too the capacities for big-picture thinking, future planning, and compassion. The result is scholastic, government, and corporate institutions are filled not with joyful, productive, creative, and compassionate learners but with disgruntled individuals who have behavioural problems and are unhappy and uninspired. No wonder then that we face leadership issues at the top, that while our workforce is well equipped in functional skills, they lack higher order skills such as critical thinking, creative problem solving, empathy, ability to envision the big picture – all critical aspects of nation building.

The need of the hour is to question the basic premise on which our learning system is based as that is what will impact the character of our nation going forward. Is it important to create competitive robots each trying to outrun the other on parameters of ‘how much I know’ or is it important to create emotionally healthy individuals who are tolerant, inquisitive, aware and nurture a deep love for learning? It is not only for educators and policy makers to imbibe the latter approach to education (and change the curriculum and the assessment and delivery approach accordingly), it is also for us as parents and guardians to change the principles on which we nurture our children. It is with this collaborative mind-set between the parent and educator community that the fabric of our coming generation can change.   



Can Drama and Theatre be Adult Learning Platforms?


Over the past few years, drama and theatre-based corporate training in India has evolved from role plays, ice-breakers and team-building activities into a serious tool. Companies are using it for everything from behavioral change, leadership skills development, change management to handling cultural and personal issues.

“The goal is to lead a participant to a unbiased evaluation of life events and choices that impact their work and professional life,” Watching experiences from outside and discussing them triggers introspection, it is pretty similar to relating to a movie that we love to watch.

Some examples of how organizations are successfully using this tool include are as below :

  • Intel uses it for management training at various levels. Its theatre training vendor uses research to develop customized people management case studies. “The aim of the programme is to depict the importance of certain behaviours and equip the audience with techniques that help understand the most relevant aspects of managing teams,”
  • Target India, on the other hand, uses it for diversity training. Drama-based training “is an effective model to be implemented for topics or themes that may have multiple viewpoints,” Theatre is also becoming increasingly relevant in dealing with personal and psychological issues, which are not very easy to handle directly. “More often than not, people can differentiate between a good and a bad behaviour, and even more so when they are watching from outside in a safe, anonymous environment,


Training with Drama options can include:

  • Team Building with Theatre can be a great way to allow teams to release some tension, change group dynamics and have fun. Using a combination of games and improvisations that can ultimately lead to creating a performance develops great team spirit. It is chance to reveal different dimensions to the team and its members in a safe and enjoyable environment.
  • Storytelling workshops offer techniques to deliver stories and information in a variety of ways that captivate and enthral an audience. It is performance orientated so you get to experience acting techniques and deliver them using your individual skills. It uncovers limiting beliefs, enables group work in a supportive environment and offers exploration of what an audience requires. With the emphasis on telling a story, participants are removed from fear of failure with the focus elsewhere they are released to perform at their best.
  • Conference events can come alive with ideas when using drama – using drama to show rather than tell.
  • Presentations Skills. courses can be organized to use the world of performance and acting to develop Presentation Skills.
  • Working with actors to explore themes such as Customer Service, Dealing with Bullying and many other issues. Called forum theatre, participants instruct the actors how to behave in certain circumstances and then explore the outcomes.


  • Creating interactive role plays for themes such as: Customer Service or Dealing with Difficult People. Participants can explore what happens when things go wrong and how to put them right in a safe environment.


Progressive organisations are passionate about delivering learning and development that harnesses the diversity, energy and creativity of people towards the common purpose. Drama & Theatre based programs achieve this by finding imaginative and creative ways of helping people learn, develop and adopt positive behaviour at work.