Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacted with more than 3,500 school and college students at Delhi’s Talkatora Stadium on Friday, answering questions on how to prepare for exams and deal with the stress.

Called “Pariksha Par Charcha”, Modi’s speech was also aired at all Central Board of Secondary Education-affiliated schools across the country, and comes soon after he released a book on the topic.

“Never let the student within you die,” Modi said while beginning his speech.

Modi answered pre-recorded questions about confidence, hard work and concentration. “Do not think of me as your prime minister, think of me as your friend,” he said. “You are going to conduct my exam today, you all are my examiners,” he said, to a laughing audience. “You decide how many marks you will give me out of 10.”

Answering a question about competition and pressure, the prime minister said students should not compete with their peers, and parents should avoid comparing their children with others. “Every child is different,” he said. “Try to find out what they are good at and don’t force your dreams on them. Try to be friends with your children.”

Modi said all children in India are “born politicians”. “They know how to get their work done.”

‘Regret not knowing Tamil’

The prime minister, who spoke in Hindi during the entire event, apologised to students with whom he could not interact because of the language barrier, and said he regrets not knowing Tamil, IANS reported.

“I feel one should know languages, for instance Tamil,” he told the students. “Tamil is the oldest language. It is older than Sanskrit and is beautiful. I can only say ‘vanakkam [greetings]’ and I regret I cannot go beyond this.”

Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar also interacted with the students. “We are working on improving the infrastructure of the education system in India,” he said. “PM Modi’s vision for education in the country is ‘sabko shiksha acchi shiksha’ [Good education for all]”.

The Union Ministry of Human Resource Development had asked all educational institutes to air the speech, and the University Grants Commission issued directives asking university vice-chancellors and college principals to ensure institutes provide large screens for students to see the programme.

On Thursday, however, West Bengal Education Minister Partha Chatterjee said schools need not air the speech, saying “no one is willing to listen to speeches” at a time when exams are round the corner. “Instead, students are busy preparing for their examinations,” he said. “Making preparations for live telecast of the speech will not be the right thing to do now.”