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Students of Indian High School interact with pet , at Indian High School Dubai on 20 FEB 2020 Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman /Gulf News

Dubai: While it is a common practice for students to skim through books and discuss doubts with friends just before important exams, a group of students in Dubai had a different experience before they wrote their first board exam on Thursday.

Thirteen students of The Indian High School in Dubai, whose fine arts exam fell on the first day of the CBSE grade 12 board exam, did praying, petting, painting and more to beat the stress and calm down before heading to their exam centre.

IHS students receive blessings from priests of various faiths as a way of relieving exam stress Atiq Ur Rehman, Gulf News

The school introduced the innovative project to help students combat exam anxiety, which is known to affect most of the Indian students struggling to cope with the pressure to score high in board exams.

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Alita Dojo was “pretty nervous thinking about the exam” when she walked into her school auditorium, where her batch mates assembled before boarding the bus to their exam centre.

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Students of IHS during art therapy at IHS Dubai on February 20, 2020 Image Credit: Atiq ur Rehman/Gulf News

But, seeing a Golden Retriever on the campus suddenly distracted her.

“Once I saw the dog, it [nervousness] slowly started going away,” said the pet lover.

IHS students engage in pet therapy to beat exam stress Atiq Ur Rehman, Gulf News

“We had basketball on one side and we had origami. We painted with crayons. It was fun. So, this initiative just helps students manage stress and find ways to truly relax,” said the teenager who feels the students “have pressure from different sources.”

Another student, Zaina Jafer Manegar echoed the same. “As young people, we undergo a lot of stress. We are supposed to be happy. We believe that this programme will be very helpful for us.”

“I am a stressful person. I start panicking and I end up crying mostly,” she said.

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IHS students interact with a pet labrador as part of their de-stress initiative Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman, Gulf News

However, she said her teacher helped her calm down. “We did a prayer. I got a letter from my mum and dad and my teacher. It was pretty sweet.”

However, she had a confession to make. “I wanted to go touch the pet. I am scared of dogs. So I was just around it,” she said with a giggle.

Students from IHS embrace anti exam stress initiative Atiq Ur Rehman, Gulf News

The school said smaller puppies would be brought in in the coming days of exams for adding some paw-some fun element.

No last minute revision

Asked if the students would prefer revising the lessons at the last moment, Zaina said: “I don’t like that practice. I end up forgetting whatever I learned before. This re-set programme will clear my mind and be calm.”

The auditorium itself was festooned with accentuated aromas and incenses “to create a heightened sense of calm and comfort and enhance psychological and physical well-being of the students,” the school said.

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IHS students receive blessings from a christian priest as part of their de-stress initiative Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman, Gulf News

Continuing the spirit of the Year of Tolerance, the school invited priests from different faiths to bless the students. Priests from two churches, a Hindu priest and the head of Islamic Studies at the school blessed children of different faiths.

IHS students undergo 'dolphin breathing' to reduce exam stress Atiq Ur Rehman, Gulf News

All the students attended a dolphin breathing session which combines visualisation and breathing to augment the relaxation response.

High-energy activities like ball dribble, hula hoop etc. that help release endorphins, the stress-fighting hormone, have been included in the sports sphere.

The activities did not end even after the students boarded another bus to their exam centre.

De-stress kit

Each student was given a ‘de-stress’ kit containing stress balls, fidget spinners, bubble wrap strips and magical spring on their journey to the exam center.

During the bus ride, soft and soothing music was played and mindfulness was practiced.

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IHS students do 'dolphin breathing' to de-stress ahead of their exams Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman, Gulf News

The school with three campuses send the single largest numbers of students taking CBSE board exams in grades 10 and12 from any school in Dubai and all of northern emirates.

A total of 541 students will be appearing for board exam in grade 12 and a total of 709 (from two campuses) will be appearing for board exam in grade 10.

All students would attend the activities to beat exam stress and keep anxiety under check on their respective exam days.

Daily SMS

“Some power-packed, humorous and fun tips and tricks will be sent to students via SMS every day to let them know that we care and we will help them triumph,” the school stated.

Punit M.K. Vasu, CEO of the school that has three campuses, said the de-stress programme was devised after the school consulted students and educators on different strategies to combat exam related stress and anxiety.

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IHS students receive messages from parents and teachers as part of their de-stress initiative ahead of CBSE exams Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman, Gulf News

“Based on their feedback, we thoughtfully devised a series of de-stress programmes that stimulate different senses of the human body - hearing, smell, touch and sight that are scientifically linked to relieving stress, fear and anxiety. I am delighted to see that our students were thrilled and much relaxed after engaging in the activities we had arranged for them.”

Pledging that the school would remain committed to promote an emotionally healthy approach to exams and test-taking, he stated: “We are incorporating a holistic approach to happiness and emotional wellbeing, starting right from early years to grades 11 and 12.”