Blog Sections

September 15, 2011

Your Child's Education

If you are a parent, I bet you have spent considerable time on your child's future - thinking, planning, working, dreaming, worrying, hoping, praying. Has it helped? To what extent? If you have wondered, as I have, then read on.

The question is easy: How can a parent ensure that the child realises its full potential while growing into an adult? The answer varies, depending on who is giving it and why. Which raises more difficult questions.

Which School?
Imagine that you are a parent who wants to choose the *best* possible school for your child. One school (motivated by commercial considerations) suggests that the more expensive the fee structure, the better the education. Another school (elitist) says that its exclusive brand (old school tie) and individual attention (low teacher:student ratio) is what counts. A third one waves the social class flag (allegiance to community/religion). A fourth school (academic performance) flaunts the high scores and ranks of its past students in competitive exams. Let us assume that all these schools are willing to admit your child. On what basis will you choose?

Learning
Having admitted the child to school, a parent has to help him to study  and equally important, to develop study skills. Parents look for private tuition and coaching classes, driven by peer pressure and the desire to gain competitive advantage. Is this good for a child's development and success in life? Have you ever wondered about those who crammed hard and scored the top ranks in the school Board examinations? Ten years later, I am not sure that they all turned out tops in terms of  success or happiness. This raises the question whether success and happiness correlated. Does one guarantee the other?

We know that there is more to learn in school than the three R's. The current trend is to send children to various classes - dancing, music, dramatics, elocution, painting, sports and martial arts. The more, the merrier. How much do extra-curricular activities contribute to a child's education? It is better than sitting in front of the TV, say the busy parents.

Then we have the huge under-explored area of SEL. A child needs to learn social and emotional skills in order to cope with the real world out there.  Read about it here.

Parents' Role
Some experts think that the biggest factor which determines a child's academic performance is genetic. In plain-speak it means that the genes of the two parents have, more or less, set the level of  the child's future academic performance. So parents, before you reproduce make sure that you are intelligent and well-educated; then sit back and wait for your child to become as great as you are ... just kidding :)

We shall not jump to the (fatal) conclusion that diligent  training and good parenting are not important. The latter is, imho, absolutely vital. A child learns best through the Four E's.

Success and Happiness
Read sociologist  Christine Carter  for thought-provoking  insights on parenting for academic success. According to her, a happy child is more likely to be successful than an unhappy one.  Shawn Achor in his book The Happiness Advantage writes  “Happiness fuels success, not the other way around. When we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work.”

Let us get back to our first question. How can parents influence their children towards greater academic success? We have some key pointers: genetics,  good schooling,  hard work, exposure to multiple activities, the happiness factor. Now what?

Before you throw a virtual brickbat at me, I'll stop further questions and confess that I do not have the answers. My purpose is served if you have begun to doubt conventional wisdom and to reject facile answers.  Read, ponder, discuss, observe and  draw your own conclusions. Tell those noisy kids to pipe down and think some more!

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