What we learn with pleasure we never forget.

What we learn with pleasure we never forget.
-Alfred Mercier

Scene 1

Friend 1: The syllabus here is so bad. My daughter is learning nothing in school

Me : Is it? She is in nursery, isn’t she?

Friend 1: Yes, and in India, she would be learning spelling and writing and everything.

Me:  But, she is quite young isn’t she? She is not even 4.

Friend 1: All they do is sing and play.. Take them on farm visits – no proper studies! I have brought the syllabus books from India and I teach her in the evenings.

Scene 2

Friend 2 : My daughter is enjoying school a lot here. She used to be terrified of school in India(They just relocated to UK).

Me:  ‘She was just in KG wasn’t she?’

Friend 2: ‘Yes, but they had started teaching them properly. They expected them to start writing and there was a lot of criticism if the children could not do spellings. I find that my daughter picks up things much faster here because she is not under any pressure.’

Me: ‘Oh – that’s a different view. Most people I have spoken to talk about how little is taught here.’

Friend 2:  ‘That was what I used to think too.. Until I saw the difference. Here they encourage imaginative play, let them think, let them grow into their personalities, instead of a fixed syllabus. I think the initial years here are quite good.’

I had been having a lot of discussion earlier, to figure out how much of a difference there is , between the school systems in UK and India. Since we are clear that we do want to go back and live in India – the question just was ‘what was the right time to do so’ . And to be honest, even after all the conversations that I have had, it is still quite a confusing subject for me.

The Advantages of the system here that I hear of is,

  • It is a more relaxed way of learning.
  • Children learn important life skills through the structured ‘play’
  • Children are allowed to develop at their own pace.
  • No tests

And these very points translate into disadvantages

  • It is too relaxed. There is no pressure on the children to excel, no homework
  • Not enough ‘teaching’
  • Children are not ‘pushed enough’
  • no tests – so we can never be sure of how the child is actually performing.

All this just adds to my confusion. I want my daughter to enjoy her childhood. I am not quite sure if forcing her to study is the best way. Isn’t it better for her to get interested in subjects that be forced to ‘learn’ stuff. I hear parents talk about -‘which child likes to study? No child will study unless they are forced to!’ But is that really true? Do we need to be forced to study? Is that getting an education or just learning by rote? Are we missing the point somewhere? Isn’t it better to get the child to actually enjoy studies than make it something to dread and worry about?

It all just makes me wonder about what is the perfect balance? How do we ensure that children get the best possible education, they understand the value of education and at the same time are not under undue pressure to perform and remain competitive in a healthy way?  It is so important to get the balance right, isn’t it? I have heard about children here who get no encouragement from parents though they are brilliant in studies. Apparently teachers sometimes have to convince parents to encourage their children to take up exams. That is another end of the spectrum, I guess. I always hear people saying that children studying in UK  are not ‘pushed’ enough, not forced to study.

When I was growing up, I remember that until I was in Class 3, my mother used to keep an eye on my studies. Then, my brother developed some medical complications so both my parents could not really concentrate on my studies. Surprisingly, that year, I performed so well, that I was given an award for exceptional improvement – an Enid Blyton book which totally made my day – but that is another story for another day 🙂 From an average student, I jumped to being a good student. So I used to joke with my parents that I do better without supervision – and they left me to my devices since then. I was always told that they were around if I needed them for any clarifications – but they wouldn’t check if I did my homework or stuff like that.  And I think I liked it that way. I remember visiting a friend once to find her flanked by both her parents – busy teaching her. And I remember even at that age thinking -‘ I am so lucky that I am allowed to be independant’. And I did well all through.

That did not mean that  I was not competitive. I was fairly competitive. I knew what I wanted. I knew that I had to get into engineering , so I think I had my goals set out – without it anybody pushing me to things. Again, that might have been because of the environment that I was brought up in. Maybe, somebody from a different background might need more active guidance from teachers or parents.

What really worries my these days is how much more parents are competitive about studying, and education, extra curricular activities.. etc. One of my friends was relating to me about how, when she took up Abacus instructor training in India, she found parents forcing children to take up Abacus simply because it had become a ‘status symbol’! They wanted their children to do it – simply because all their relatives and friend’s children were doing it too! Apparently the teachers had talked to the parents quite a few times that their children were not interested in it – but they just refused to listen! While I hope that parents like these are exceptions, isn’t it horrible, that they exist at all? Isn’t it better to put our children in classes or extra-curricular activities that they actually enjoy? And is not perfectly alright, if for some reason the child is not interested in any such activities?

‘Why , why, is there, this big pressure to conform’

Is conforming to what society expects all that important? I wonder how I will react if my daughter comes up and says that she wants to take up something obscure. Something that might not draw the big bucks? Will I then get off my high horse and tell her that all her dreams mean nothing? That what she wants, has no future at all? I certainly hope not.

I have hopes that by the time she grows up, things will change. We will have more opportunities in India, which is beyond performing extremely well in academics. I have hope that performing well in academics is not linked to rote learning. That everything is not judged by parameters of failure or non failure. That the ‘so-called’ professional degrees lose their importance- that they become just another career. That a degree is not assumed to be an ‘education’.

Which is why, Kapil Sibal’s ideas for education – makes me glad. For a change, we have an education minister who is actually talking about policies that make sense, instead of just changing the syllabus to suit their ideology or changing symbols, left right and centre . He talks of having common entrance exam should determine college admissions, plans of getting rid of exams totally, eventually, he talks about foreign investment in education and of increasing opportunities. I am not sure how much will happen in this term – but it makes me happy that somebody has taken notice of children committing suicides because of exam results and the huge pressure that Indian children seem to be under. He talks like someone who has analysed the issues with our education system and wants to make it better!

Education is not the filling of a pail,
but the lighting of a fire.
Wiliam Butler Yeats

I think, that is what we need to remember – to light the fire, not just fill the pail!

PS : Kapil Sibal’s interview in which he details out his plans.


67 thoughts on “What we learn with pleasure we never forget.

  1. Yes! Yay! Ok now this is a very long post so….
    I may or may not read it so please don’t be mad if i don’t !!

    oh – I forgot to put the long post alert 🙂

        • haha…plain luck ma fren. i had logged in from my cell phone, while having ice cream in a mall with my wife and kiddo! Isliye toh post padha nai aur comment kar diya! 😉

          Multitasking! You should be concentrating on that ice cream!

  2. I was thinking of writing a post in these lines, after I read Sibal’s interview in Times of India, today. I was half way through and now I saw your post. You have written it more precisely, Smitha. Anyway, have a look at my post, too!

    I will hop over to your post. Haven’t had a chance to go through my reader yet.

    My grand nephew, 13 years old, who is in the UK, goes to a normal school everyday, twice a week to a drama school, twice a week to dance school. He had learnt music also. He did very well in mathematics in his class and he is doing a higher level maths now. There, they do not bother about their age, but look at their performance level, it seems. He doesn’t seem to be stressed at all. He is quite a happy child. I wonder if every child will be able to learn this much at a stretch. Or is pushing by the parents is needed, here? It is very very difficult to decide.

    Yes, some of my friends have said the same thing. That they can do advanced Maths, for instance – if they are performing above average. Which makes sense, doesn’t it? Let each child grow as per his/her abilities, rather than setting a single standard for every child. Yes, every child may not be able to push himself. I think the place where parents have to come in, is to decide whether the child needs to be pushed or is the child at the height of his ability? Is it better to accept that, that is his level – and that it is not a ‘failure’ – he might just be better at something else. I think the issue is when children are pushed way beyond their abilities. But, yes it is very difficult to decide.

    You have expressed your views very well, Smitha.
    Thank you so much 🙂 It is something I think a lot about, actually.

  3. This is what bothers me smitha.I have put varunavi in school here in the middle of academic year and she was forced to learn cursive writing within one month,poor girl she used to cry when teacher wrote bad handwritting and poor handwritting.I used to blame myself of putting her in the school in the middle of academic year.She was just 4 years.

    It is so sad, isn’t it? That they forced that poor child to learn cursive writing. 4 yrs old – why force them to do anything? She will probably always feel that her writing is not good – for no fault of hers! It is so sad that teachers – who can make a difference – prefer to make a negative difference! Hugs to Varunavi! I am so happy that she has a better teacher now.

    I remember my mom never sat with us but we all three are post-graduates and done well in all the exams and my mom never used to tell us study and go for coaching class or tutions.

    Same here – I went in for IIT coaching – but thats it – nothing else – and I managed fine. These days, I heard that children are packed off for coaching as soon as they get home from school! Some children may genuinely need it – but I think it is also becoming a trend!

    It is we indians who give so much importance to education,i am not saying it is bad but it should start when the child is able to take the burden.

    Yes, ‘it should start when the child is able to take the burden.’ when the child is ready for it.

    I have decided not to put pinky in school until she is 4 years.
    Poohi will start nursery at 3.5 – but it is very relaxed here.. They play games, have fun.. so I am not too worried – I am more worried about how she will cope when we go back to India. Some of my friends actually bring the entire year’s Indian syllabus and teach the children at home in the evenings – I can’t bring myself to do that.

    I don’t know why some parents expect too much from the little child,its time for them to enjoy their childhood.My neighbour kids come from school,then they go to tutions and then for some dance class and are back home at 8.30,what they will do then eating and sleeping and get ready for tomorrow 😦

    I know of children like that – their schedules are packed from 8 to 8!!

    • Saritha wrote: one month,poor girl she used to cry when teacher wrote bad handwritting and poor handwritting.

      That’s so rude. How can a teacher demoralize a 5 year old like that? 😐

      I agree! The sad thing is that it happens! Some teachers even disparage the way the child looks! I don’t understand how such people become teachers!

      • She wrote that within one month of learning cursive writting which was new to her as in india she was not taught cursive,poor child she learnt cursive in a month where as kids take more than 6 months to write proper cursive letter.

        That teacher needs her head examined! Seriously! It is shocking that people entrusted with taking care of such little ones can be so mean and demoralising! Teachers like this should be banned from entering a profession like teaching.

        This is one of the biggest issues we have, of teachers not really being interested in what they do. and being able to get away with such behaviour!

        Saritha – Did you complain about the teacher to the school? It might help.

          • Indy? will u do that to this teacher i had???!!

            she wrote for me too 😦
            “very poor handwriting”
            and i was told off at home….

            (psst…my handwriting looks like a crow stepped in ink and walked around on the paper)

            but why all this rudeness na?

            Oh Crafty! You had the same experience too? Isn’t handwriting supposed to reflect personality? How can it be good or bad – beats me! I used to tell that to anybody who told me that! Some of our so-called teachers are more interested in fitting every child into the same mould rather than let their individual personalities develop!! Such teachers should be banned from coming near children!!!!! I get so mad when I hear of this!


  4. Our education system is a relic of the Raj , which was designed to produce literate clerks , worth executing orders . Even the best B school of our nation is so bloody theoretical that it is maddening . Learning by rote rules the roost , every where !

    ‘produce literate clerks , worth executing orders’ so true – and I hope it changes! It’s never too late.

    I must add that if Mr. Sibal has earned my respect . I did not use to think very highly of him .
    I have to say – same here.. All this while, I just found him a very brash Congress spokesperson – my impression of him has certainly changed after that interview. Lets hope he implements, at least some of these reforms.

    • Kislay wrote: “Our education system is a relic of the Raj , which was designed to produce literate clerks , worth executing orders . Even the best B school of our nation is so bloody theoretical that it is maddening . Learning by rote rules the roost , every where !”

      I agree with Kislay here. Our education system is such that we teach kids to be followers and never leaders. It’s like ‘don’t ask questions…do as I say’. The approach itself is wrong.

      • Agree with Kislay 101%
        And event the IIT’s the mecca of all thats good and glorious are not devoid of controversies..
        I still remember the way they could not even justify the criteria for entrance exams…

  5. Got to agree with Kislay’s statement. We do have nation full of clerks! I dont u\s this mad race at all..

    Yes, so very true!

    In schools teacher doesnt teach well.. if she does.. she cannot complete the course work.. and fit her work n students extra curricular work in it and on top of it.. she (he) is underpaid..
    So he/she takes tutions

    Yes, it is all a vicious circle isn’t it? The teachers are dissatisfied and underpaid, they pass on that dissatisfaction to the children and with tuitions – make the money that they should have been making with their regular salary!

    Students are over burdened by all the school hw+ tution HW and the efforts for extra curricular activities.. Is it any wonder that there are parks but no children playing in them? We used to play so much every day/…. nowadays I dont find kids playing even on Sundays!!!

    So sad na? I feel so sorry for the poor little kids, whose schedules are even tighter than grown-ups’ !

  6. What an apt post, Smi! *clap* You know what? I feel like picking up the phone and discuss about it instead of typing it.

    Aww!! Thank you Sols 🙂

    If you ask me, I really haven’t given it that much thought and I really don’t find much difference here and India either. The difference is rude teachers in nurseries and heavy backpacks in India. My cousins daughter joined nursery and hates going there whereas Peanut loved it and still loves her school and have learned a lot.

    Yes, you are right, the basic difference is in the way the teachers handle children. In India, the pressure is on to make the child ‘learn’ ! I know so many children in India who hate school! Here, most children love it – mainly because they make it fun. Nursery is very relaxed and yet, children do pick up a lot.

    This is what I did. I put Peanut in a Summer school when she turned 3. The Summer school was in the same school where she was going to start Pre-school. So I went with her to Summer school on first day and after initial reluctance, she was fine. Then she was all excited for her pre-school to start. She learned writing alphabets and number at age 3.5 but I insisted teachers to help her socialize as an only child at home, that’s she was missing. Also, language because we used to speak to her in Malayalam-English mixed.

    Yes, I do find it very nice how they are very considerate and take down all such information. I have heard that children who do not know English in India are not even welcome in some schools – even at the nursery level! Here, on the other hand, they assume that some children might have never heard English before! and they have mechanisms to overcome it..

    At 4.5 she started Pre-k and started reading, doing addition, subtraction and all that. I think in India too kids that age do the same. I don’t really know the difference. Now she turned 5 and starting Kindergarten in August and she can read really well and write too. On top of that good language and GK, Science. She loves all that because they teach everything in an interesting way.

    I think it is wonderful that Peanut is enjoying it. I think it is the same here in UK. The only difference with the Indian system is the method of teaching. I think it is more interesting here while there it is more of classroom studying. My friend’s daughter used to fall asleep in class when she went back to India 🙂 She used to find classroom studying quite monotonous after schooling here 🙂

    The most important thing I like about her school is that it is private school system and allows class capacity to max. 12. Also, they interact with parents. Always gives us upto date report of child’s behavior and studies and very friendly. I would anyday prefer such schools to the ones where children refuse to go. We are going to continue Peanut with private school system.

    Oh that sounds wonderful! We are going to put her in a state school – they are quite good here. Yes, a friendly and approachable school anytime rather than a school the child dreads to go! Even when we go back to India, I plan to find out such a school and put her there rather than a school where she is not happy to go.

    • This is how a really good school should be, Solilo. Children will learn everything not by compulsion, but with happiness. They will develop self confidence also, in this way. Nice.

      Yes Sandhya – ‘Children will learn everything not by compulsion, but with happiness. They will develop self confidence also, in this way. ‘ Instead of terrorising them into studying 😦

  7. My crackpot cousin moved from India to Canada, enrolled her son in school/play home and promptly took him out after just 1 month. “all they the whole day is play play play” She wanted to teach him a,b,c,d and her mom (the boy’s granny) was even super “teach him cat, rat, bat, mat…” ayyoo these people will NEVER learn. You eventually have to learn cat, rat, bat..you have no choice let the kid have fun while he can. I agree with Saritha about teacher cribbing about bad handwriting. Mine did the same , but since I was a rebel I never cared, I only made my hand writing even worse – my parents had given up on me 😛 Honestly, I think such trivial things are given more imporatnce-what I am going to get with a cursive handwriting -Nobel Award?

    LOL at ‘”teach him cat, rat, bat, mat…” ‘!!! I can so imagine it! I have heard so many people say the same things! They are worried because the teaching style is different. I don’t understand it when parents say things like ‘ children will never study – unless forced’! I’d rather have a happy child picking up things ar her pace that an unhappy child ‘forced’ to ‘study’!

    As for that handwriting bit – teachers are mad!!! Thats all I can say! To label somebody’s handwriting as ‘bad’ is so not done! So glad to hear that you were a rebel 🙂

    lol at ‘ what I am going to get with a cursive handwriting -Nobel Award?’

    • I wish my child had become a rebel than sitting quitely in the class without saying a single word for the whole day,i dont know what was in her mind,but she is not the same after that 😦

      Saritha, Do talk to her and make her understand that she is not at fault at all.. The problem was with her teacher not her at all! Hugs to the little darling!

      • Oh the poor baby! Maybe you can get some fun books and let her do that stupid cursive writing in her own pace. And tell her that its not very important to have excellent cursive writing. Please do talk to her, it breaks my heart to know that man teacher broke a kid’s spirt 😦 Did you talk to the teacher – I doubt that will help. If the teacher were to talk to your daughter I am sure it will make a BIG difference.

        • I spoke to her many times but she never used to respond properly 😦 Anyway her year with that teacher finished and now she is having a lovely teacher who talks to the kids in their language 🙂 Her cursive has improved a lot and new teacher appricates her 🙂

          It must be a great relief for her and you that she has a wonderful new teacher! Am sure her confidence will return.

          • Good to know that she is in good hands, now Saritha. Who knows, she might become and important person, in the future. People who face hiccups while starting anything, become great persons, later. Many examples are there.

      • I want to BASH up that teacher! 👿

        dont worry Saritha..with a encouragement and a lot of positive reinforcement Varunavi will come out of her shell..I promise you that 🙂
        god bless them both 🙂

          • OMG! Hugs saritha! what a poor excuse of a teacher! thank god its over! its happened to me too, when i was 5! i wud be paranoid of sharing my books, in case other kids wud make fun of me…

            ‘i wud be paranoid of sharing my books, in case other kids wud make fun of me…’ Crafty, it is so sad! Teachers just don’t realise how much of an impact their behaviour could be on the child!

            i pity how many more kids this teacher will demotivate 😦 😦

            ‘i pity how many more kids this teacher will demotivate 😦 😦 ‘ – yes, that is indeed scary!
            i agree with Indyeah!
            *rolling up sleeves to join Indy in bashing this teacher up*

            hopefully varunavi will enjoy her schooling this year! touchwood, may she never get another sad specimen of a teacher again! hugs to her too!

  8. Our system has a whole lot of drawbacks, one being that the fun is taken out of learning.

    Yes, ‘the fun is taken out of learning. ‘ that is very true.

    But when you consider the comparatively few quality openings for higher education and the maddening competition that there is to get into an IIT or St Stephen’s, for example, there is little choice left but to break your back. Bad, no doubt.

    Yes, true.. It is the main reason when competition is so high. Lack of opportunities.

    But, we must remember that it is this system which is producing great students who make it to the best universities in the States, where they find competing with American kids a lot easier, in most cases. In fact, if admission into American Universities is thrown open freely to all, then I have little doubt that you will see more Indians than anyone else there.

    Yes, that is true – but at what cost? Is it worth it – all the cramming and the loss of childhood – is it worth an admission into American colleges? I just wonder..

    The general view is that school education in India is better than in the US.

    The Americans can afford to let American kids take it relatively easy because America, a nation of immigrants, consciously attracts the best brains from around the world into its institutions of higher learning, many of whom then work there and many out of them go on to become US citizens. It is new immigrants who are fuelling America’s intellectual and other competitive advantages more than the older lot.

    I agree. and I think that the competition does gear us up better. The drawback is that while the able move ahead – there are many who are demoralized, many who commit suicide at not being able to keep up – is that worth it. We do better abroad – because given our back ground and the competitive spirit that is instilled in us – we naturally try to excel at what we do – which is a good thing – as far as it is within limits.

    India, on the other hand, barely has opportunities for its own citizens. So, rather than attracting best talent from around the world to study in and work for India, it loses such talent that goes on to benefit other countries, primarily the US.

    Therefore, merely transporting the American school system to India and making it more fun but less competitive is not going to prove beneficial in the long run. Kapil Sibal seems to have the right idea but, since I am not familiar with the exact details, I only hope it does not wind up destroying the competitive edge that India enjoys today.

    I agree – transporting an american system and bringing it here will not help. What is needed is that understand our needs and borrow the best ideas from everywhere. And yes, it is important not to destroy the competitive edge that we have today. And I suspect that we will retain it – because it will take some time for us to be that affluent that we have ample opportunities for one and all..

  9. I like the no tests. In America everything is based on tests. I don’t like them and I think they do more harm than good. What happens is that you spend so much time on just learning to past the test, then when the test is over you forget all the material. You really don’t have a choice due to the fact that you have to prepare for the next and a whole new set of material. It just adds pressure. Great post. Your blog is amazing, it is very smart and very entertaining.

    ‘What happens is that you spend so much time on just learning to past the test, then when the test is over you forget all the material. You really don’t have a choice due to the fact that you have to prepare for the next and a whole new set of material.’ – So true! We just learn to clear the test – that’s it! And that is what is wrong.

    And thank you for your kind words, and welcome here 🙂

  10. What a wonderful post, Smitha! Even though Popol hasn’t started school yet, I know that many Indian parents complain that there is hardly any pressure on the kids to excel themselevs at school. I feel that up to grades 4 or 5, this should be exactly this way, sans pressure. After that, a series of graded challenging curriculum is required for those who have the potential to excel…for the rest, simple curruculum should be continued. I’ll try and learn more about the education sytem and curriculum out here and get back later.

    ‘I feel that up to grades 4 or 5, this should be exactly this way, sans pressure. After that, a series of graded challenging curriculum is required for those who have the potential to excel…for the rest, simple curruculum should be continued.’ – I totally agree with you. I think this way the basics are stronger and the child will pick up a lot more than the more strict , competitive form of schooling. And then as you mention, upping the pressure, gently. The right balance is what we need.

  11. How about no schools and just play… !!

    I would not go that far 🙂

    I like it that way…

    I sincerely hope my son never studies… and causes gray hair and wrinkles for his mom and plays and becomes something he really enjoys… !!
    You know, the reason why you hated studying was because of the way it was done. who knows, if you had a really encouraging teacher , you might have found studying fun – and not a dreaded exercise at all..

    may his books not be complete.. may he come last… !! but son make sure you play, sing, paint, swim, dance, roam enough !!!!!! and enjoy this beautiful planet… !!

    ‘son make sure you play, sing, paint, swim, dance, roam enough !!!!!! and enjoy this beautiful planet… !’ – so important. Not many parents will have the guts to think like this. Am not sure if I have, to be honest.

    I so want my daughter to enjoy school not dread it. Have wonderful teachers who understand her potential, and grooms her to be what she wants – rather than just fit in the mould, you know.

    • make sure you play, sing, paint, swim, dance, roam enough !!!!!! and enjoy this beautiful planet… !!

      where we u all my life hitchu????
      is it too late for u to adopt me???
      telllllllllll meeeeeeeeee

      *crafty’s arms thrown open, awaiting hitchu to adopt her*

      • Come to me my bacha !!!!! lol…. I am one of those who dont like too much being drilled in class rooms… the world is outside the class room… !! really…

        Just see what a world we have created… We humans claim we are the superior beings on this planet… and our kids have to spend 20-25 years just training to learn how to survive in this world… !!!

        werent we supposed to make things easy for ourselves… !! huh ??

        ‘Just see what a world we have created… We humans claim we are the superior beings on this planet… and our kids have to spend 20-25 years just training to learn how to survive in this world… !!!

        werent we supposed to make things easy for ourselves… !! huh ??’ So true!!! All we seem to do is make things even more difficult and competitive 🙂 Plus the fact that there are so many of us to compete with too 🙂

        • *crafty is well nestled, and refuses to leave ever*

          “the world is outside the class room… !!”

          “werent we supposed to make things easy for ourselves… !!”

          *crafty ain’t leaving ever, snuggles closer in fact*

          i tell u hitchu, WHY can’t more ppl think like this……esp ppl who are responsible directly in this education system…responsible for the future of our world thru the lives of children???

          ‘WHY can’t more ppl think like this……..esp ppl who are responsible directly in this education system…responsible for the future of our world thru the lives of children??? – So sad, na?

          u remind me of Aamir’s character from TZP!!!

          most of all, i think the child will be so much more closer to learning if he / she knows there’s no compulsion to excel…

          ‘most of all, i think the child will be so much more closer to learning if he / she knows there’s no compulsion to excel…’ I so agree! Children will turn out better balanced and doing something they really enjoy.

          Pll shud tell kids, and accept that it is OK if they aren’t champs in everything!!!

          ‘Pll shud tell kids, and accept that it is OK if they aren’t champs in everything!!!’ – Extremely important! I think children should be allowed to do what really interests them and let them excel at that!

          touchwood hitchu, Hriday is a lucky kid with awesome parents!!!!
          Yes, Hriday is very lucky 🙂

          U, solilo, IHM, Smithu…u guys are simply awesome!!!

          parents like u guys n teachers like Indyeah!!

          so am a bit late, but am gonna enjoy all of this now anyways!!!!!

          HUGS TO ALL U GUYS!!!!! 😀 😀 😀

          Thanks so much Crafty 🙂 You are the sweetest! And am sure that you will make an awesome parent too!

  12. I think a school should let a child find her own way rather than forcing something down her throat. I hate the way they teach in India.

    ‘I think a school should let a child find her own way rather than forcing something down her throat.’ – Totally agree!

  13. My daughter was attending Shriram School in Gurgaon and it was good…They spent 6.5 hrs at school but did a lot of things including napping…They had drama, play, clay class, art class, yoga, computers etc. and best of all, they didn’t get any homework!!! My neighbour’s children who went to regular school got homework every day from day 1 of nursery! I just couldn’t understand this…They went to school for 4 hrs. and were stuck in the classroom all day…Does it matter if learn how to write in nursery and not in KG or class 1? Eventually everyone learns so why push? Kids have a whole life time of pressure to face so why start from such an early age?

    Bones, your daughter’s school sounds ideal! Nursery children having homework ! Why? I just fail to understand.

    ‘Does it matter if learn how to write in nursery and not in KG or class 1? Eventually everyone learns so why push? ‘ – exactly!

    I don’t think doing away with class 12 boards is the answer…Have them but make learning more fun…Parents are at fault too…They put too much pressure on their kids but the good thing now is that there are many more avenues open – boys don’t have to be only engineers or doctors now…

    Yes, parents are definitely at fault. I think parents make it worse in many cases. Yes. avenues are opening up – atleast I can see a lot of changes from the time I was at school. But I guess, there still is a discrepancy between the number of students and available opportunities..

    • I was working with a school quite similar to Sriram School(its competitor actually I think) and I have to say that the teaching methodology Sraboney has described used to happen in our school too and to my mind till date I have found nothing wrong with it.

      Indyeah, I think it is great that we have such schools now! I wish more schools adopted this methodology of teaching.

  14. My memories of LKG(apart from those involving the girl I had a crush on 😛 ) are surprisingly good …I studied in a school which concentrated on value education .. but even there when we came to 1st grade I suffered ( I remember crying like hell because the teachers were so prejudiced and partial to those who got marks) .. and they never taught me tamil properly( by the time I realized why my tamil spellings were bad , it had become too late) ..But like in your case , when I came to 6th grade , because of other reasons I was left on my own and I studied…In my case I am lazy and tend to get over confident and at the same time depressed…so basically school was one hell of a roller coaster ride…

    First of all – you remember that you had a crush in LKG!! Wow! You have some memory! Yes, I guess it helps to be left to one’s devices – atleast it helped me.

    On the other side my sis studied till 4th grade in a Montessori and she enjoyed herself..now into the main stream she enjoys herself( she is in such a school where there is no pressure to study) ..

    The Montessori system is supposed to be very good. We had the montessori system for the initial few classes. and it was good -what I remember of it.

    I believe that kids need to be allowed to enjoy…we Indian always think that kids need to be watched and forced and there are times when kids’ self moral is punctured beyond repair just because they didn’t get more marks..And it has turned into a sort of exploitation with all these tuition centers… I would say kids do better in a system where they have freedom..

    Yes, I agree – ‘I would say kids do better in a system where they have freedom..’. It has become a sort of exploitation – it is almost child abuse in some ways, if you ask me.

  15. Kids do learn better when they are having fun.. and i don’t see any fun in being punished for not being able to write when even the gross motor skills are just developing.

    Exactly! I find it appalling that so many teachers do not seem to understand this.

    they must get the time and fun and variety of learning. that will improve their learning skills and when they will be introduced to actual studies they’ll learn better.

    and this actually develops life skills in them.. which numbers and words won’t..

    Yes, life skills which are so much more important – but are sadly ignored in our system.

    the song and dance and play develops their personalities and talents … formal education will always be there atlest we can let the child enjoy the childhood.. 🙂

    Yes, after all childhood is the time when they get to be children? Why force them to grow up before their time?

  16. I will continue with an apt example . In the better American Tech Schools, the approach used is do and learn . Read and apply . And it works . Even our IITs do not come very close to that . And our B schools simply rock . In fact , the very reason why Indians go for an MBA rocks . More moolah , better status . And the worst of all is that most of us are encouraged to finish it all in one stride . B.E/B.Tech./B.Sc , then an MBA . That defeats the very purpose of a Management degree . You haven’t worked at all , and you are learning about ways to improve the way other people in an organization work . WTH ! And the entrance exam is another head ache . If I can multiply 32 by 78 and find out the squareroot of 456 , will I will be a better manager ? The actual course is a lot more theoretical , as compared to American Universities .

    do and learn, read and apply – are unknown concepts in our system of education.

    And what you say about people taking up management studies right after graduation is so true – totally beats the purpose. However, now the trend is changing. A lot of people are now doing their MBAs even aftre 8, 9, 10 years of working..
    And I think , these people will be able to really make a difference with their education.

  17. the idea given by Kapil Sibal is really really good something that will make the children benefit well in future..

    and I hate this mark and no.1, 2 system…. it’s all about memorizing and nothing else. I have a very bad school education and I hated it completely.. 😡

    Exactly – memorising and vomiting in the exams… No real learning at all.

    our parents always try to showoff with their children’s talents to their friends and relatives without considering the child.. and that is the result of making them join in abacus.. just to say ‘my son/daughter has joined there… have yours?’ creating a jitters in them, making them to think that their child is lagging behind 😛

    I hate that! How can parents do that! Use children to ‘show off’!! But the sad thing is that they do 😦

  18. Smitha AWESOME post!!!
    Loved it! 🙂
    You have written about so much and so clearly and with such concern that its visible in your words too.

    Thank you, Indyeah – it is something that worries me a lot..

    The first and the second example are both something that I have been witness to in my career as a teacher. Parents have come up to me before admission and asked me to be honest and tell them if the school was actually worth it.
    And thank god till date I have never had to say no or be dishonest because the school was actually amazing.
    There were no tests till class 8th. And even in 9th and 10th the emphasis was not on rote learning as is usually the case.

    That is very good.. I think it sounds fantastic!

    Till class 8th kids used to have all kinds of activities that they could participate in according to their interest.

    Makes a lot of sense..

    We had all round assessment and PBL.
    I think I wrote about this at Vishesh’s blog too.
    Project based learning where the student is not just an observer or a spectator but participates in the process of learning.
    Infact it is the student who takes the project forward and the teachers stay in the background merely to guide them at regular intervals when they get stuck.

    It makes it so much more interactive doesn’t it? I think it gives the child a sense of involvement. That studies is not just something you ‘mug up for exams’ but something you absorb and understand.. I personally think this is the way forward,, where children can gently pick up stuff – at their own pace and be creative and imaginative too..

    Smitha in case you are thinking of shifting to India. I would say that don’t be too worried about the school for Poohi..there are schools in India which are doing a fine job.’
    they are relatively new schools. Most of them are affiliated to certain international boards as well and they do not emphasize on rote learning .

    We will shift – before daughter turns 5 – so that formal education is in India.. We don’t plan to stay here forever and I don’t want her to have a huge shock by shifting back , once she is in a higher class..

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  20. Smitha we have our faults and they have theirs…
    the difference is that we seem to be wayyy too obsessed with studies(translated to mean rote learning)

    Yes, I agree! No system is perfect. Which I why I so wish we knew how to balance it out.. Take the best out of all the systems.. figure out a way which works.. but that sounds too perfect, doesn’t it?

    In USA for example..the ‘leave no child behind policy’ has resulted in some VERY haphazard measure being pout in place..
    Teachers have had to concentrate more on the tests that came up to check whether the child was eligible to go on to the next class rather than teaching kids the subjects they should have been taught.

    Yes, I can see the danger of that – ‘eachers have had to concentrate more on the tests that came up to check whether the child was eligible to go on to the next class rather than teaching kids the subjects they should have been taught.’ I believe children are passing out without even the basics of subjects like English and Maths..
    here’s the wiki link for NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT

    and here’s one of the links that talks of the shortcomings

    The Crux of the matter is this one condition(among a few others)

    NCLB holds schools “accountable” by allowing the government to withhold badly needed federal funds, or even to close schools, if test scores are not high enough.
    Now just try to imagine as to how MANY schools will be scrambling to get their students to pass these tests by hook or by crook.

    Also standardized tests are now way to measure such vastly different students…

    Another link

    The funny thing is Smitha that while I welcome Kapil Sibal’s plan and am in support of it..but there is this apprehension that things will remain the same..

    Yes, that possibility is always there.. Infact if they do not think things through and implement things in a hurry – it could makes things even worse.

    Because what we are doing is not improving the existing system and taking it to a level where all schools can come at par..but instead we are looking at a populist measure aimed to get votes AND appreciation …

    This measure will not be successful IF it is not handled properly…

    Yes, I agree. And I do hope that they implement after analysing every aspect. It should be beyond vote gathering techniques – because in that case they will concentrate on short term goals rather than long term.. However I am happy that they are thinking on these lines. Because for way too long, our political class has ignored these aspects of education.. It makes me happy that they are atleast thinking about making changes.. Let’s see how they implement them..

    WIll write about it when I am a bit more clear in my head about this measure 🙂

    Waiting for your post 🙂

  21. I personally like the education system in US better. I am not sure about how things work in UK. In US, for pre-schoolers, there is not much pressure, they are usually taught whatever interests them and I think thats a cool practise. And for school going kids, its all project based. I remember going with my cousin (who was in 7th grade in the US) to the library, because she wanted to refer to different books for her project. So for 1 project she was required to do a lot of work, required to read many different books, and when a kid does so much work on one topic, I’m sure she will never forget the things that she has read. One other time, I had gone to the zoo with this same cousin as she was writing a report on chimpanzees. So we sat observing them for about an hour or so. Isn’t this kind of school work just AWESOME ?!
    My SIL had written her experience of a pre-school in India here, do check it out: http://rahulbhandarkar.blogspot.com/2009/02/anushkas-horrible-experince-at-school.html

    I do like the system here in the UK – atleast for the initial years.. I am not so sure about high school.. I think there are issues everywhere.. What we really need is to find the right balance.. I do think that children pick up a lot more if they are allowed to study at their own pace.. Some people might say that it would mean that we are not ‘pushing’ them enough… Will check out the link.

  22. The education system is one thing, the teachers another. The most pleasurable subjects for me were English and Geography, because the teachers were good, communicated with us on our level and tried to make our lessons interesting.

  23. Smithu!!! a topic after my heart. this one!

    u are so so right about parents being more competitive about performance and marks these days!

    now kids r enroled for tuitions from such a young age….
    simply taking away their childhood 😦

    why, even the hobbies kids have to take up need to have a “status symbol” attached to it!

    i know of so many parents who have enrolled their kids for music, sports, dance, crafts n what not during their 2 month vacations! when will the kid get to goof around on its own, without someone telling it “what is fun”


    scenario with my dad was very similar, my marks were his status for society, and i didn’t match it one bit!! 😛
    he always had collegues with “ranker” kids, and i wudn’t feature till after rank 20!!! tee hee unintentionally rebel!


    the pressure sure takes away the joy of learning, and also the teaching methods! conformity just kills all independence and children are just conditioned to think one way “the textbook” way….very rare are teachers who will let them explore and ask questions and take the pinds to find answers to questions! if its not in the book, they need not know it!

    but smithu, i know u’ll allow poohi to do what she wishes to! u r an awesome mommy!!!

    some quote i had read, “its better to be excellent in something average, rather than be average in something excellent”

    if she likes it, she’ll do wonders at what she chooses…

    this was a really brilliant post Smithu! all the best and HUGS!!!!! 😀

  24. What a post,Smitha…you’ve covered all those anxieties that I am going through right now for Namnam. In fact Kapil Sibal’s policies brought a smile to my face too. I hope he manages to bring all the states in our country on board with this move.

    As for putting undue pressure on our children,your title says it all,Smits. What is important is that our children enjoy while they learn.This is something that my mother too professes.

    As you know I’m looking for some good playschools for Namnam here and I was zapped at the way the playschools here stressed on following a certain curriculum.Anyway what I’m hoping though is whichever school Namnam goes to eventually,she likes going there and has a good fulfilling time while she is there and not feel any kind of pressure whatsoever.

    I’m sure Poohi wl be in good hands. ummas to her 🙂

  25. What happened to my comment? 😦
    maybe it actually spammed!!!! 😀 😀 😀

    Anyways, coming back to the point of the post…

    I loved your post!
    I have been seeing here too nowadays, kids at a very young age – like in 1st and 2 nd stds are enrolled in tutions, abacus classes, dance, music, tennis, swimming! Whew!
    There are so busy either studying or rushing from one class to another, they don’t have the precious time to be just kids…
    When we were in school, it wasn’t so bad.
    tutions were given as an extention to weak students so that they improve their grades.
    I think we had a better, much more rounded education when compared to my juniors, but, here, its all studies.
    Since I also studies in US for 2 yrs, I loved their education system for a while, but, when I realised that multiplication was the only Math that was being taught in 4th grade and in 6th or 7th, my seniors had calcus and stuff like that, I realised there were loop holes there as well!
    I think that maybe, we as parents also should take care not to push our kids too much, to let them enjoy the limited childhood they have.
    We should maybe, just maybe, read the signs better and realise when to stop and what to encourage our kids in.
    Like, if the child has no aptitude for Math, we should see what they are good in and encourage them there, and also help them to better their grades in Math and to teach them to enjoy that subject as well and when faced with a choice, to encourage them to study or pursure their interests…

    Ok, this turned out to be a mini-post! Will stop now…

    Just my 2 cents worth of thoughts on this subject! 🙂

  26. im one of those who advocates that young kids shud be allowed to grow at their own pace… why do we want nursery kids writing??? they are too small, their muscles arent developed enuf.. its ok for them to scribble with crayons, but pencils are a no-no. i remember my mom getting into a biiig argument with the school management over this very issue once.. they wanted nursery kids to start writing. she put her foot down. wats the hurry, i dont understand… i have colleagues discussing how their kids are 2.5 – 3 and still not in formal school.. and i keep thinking but they arent supposed to be in formal school!!!
    I remember my mom telling me “why shud you compete with others? compete with yourself and keep doing better from where u started.” that made a lot of sense to me then…still does..

  27. I’m listening to this kinda conversations almost everyday from my friends.But they are just proud about “drilling a hole in there kids head and stuffing as much theories as possible”.
    What to do…we have to run with time. Unfortunately in India,the system is like this and I don’t think it will be alright in near future 😦

  28. wonderful post solilo. well written and very well timed.
    I used to put a pressure on my daughter to excel, but the day i left her to herself, she is blooming wonderfully. I regret having put that pressure on her but i m glad that i learnt in time that she will manage. now i m always there to answer her queries, to make net searches for her to save her time, but never tell her to do what she doesnt want to.

    Yes, I do think children do well, when left to themselves.. I think you are wonderful to have given her the space to do things by herself! A lot of parents will not even consider it – even when the evidence is right in front of them!

  29. I know !! kids these days are tortured in the name of education. I happened to check some of the books of my nephew who is in his 10th to teach them and I found that his syllabus contains those that I learned in my 12th and degree 1st year. Each age has a capacity to learn, you cant expect a 2 month old kid to recite the alphabets, right? But thats whats happening now! and I know certain parents who make their younger children recite poems and prose from books of their elder ones. Sad and Im glad that I didnt have to go through all that!

    Yes, it is torture! I can’t imagine why people would send their 6 or 7 child on a 8 am to 8 pm schedule starting with school and then various activities!

    ‘I know certain parents who make their younger children recite poems and prose from books of their elder ones ‘ – and then proudly get the child to demo in front of family friends and relatives!

  30. This is such a sensible post my dear!!!

    I have friends who have young kids. Sample this routine

    The kiddo wakes up at 7 gets ready to go gymnastics session of 1.5 hrs, comes back leaves for tutions,school post 12, back home, plays for an hour, goes for swimming & Martial arts class (on alternate days), comes back does his homework & conks of by 9!!!! There was abacus class as well which thankfully has been removed now!!!

    Poor things!! Doesn’t look like they have much time to ‘be children’ do they? I have friends whose children have such routines and I don’t understand the logic!

    Her mother even wants him to join singing classes!!! Al this not because their kid has an aptitude for these things but because they need to keep up with time n competition!!!!

    Oh yes – keeping up with the competition – that is very important!!!!! I don’t understand why we need to be so competitive!

    I seriously believe our times were better!! Am thankful to my parents that they allowed me to let me choose what I wanted to study even if that was Arts stream(choosing Arts stream in our times was taken as being bad students).

    Yes, I think so too – atleast I had the freedom of deciding what extra curricular activities I wanted to take up and what stream I wanted to do…

    I hope the change that is being proposed sees the light of the day!!

    Same here – I hope they bring in these changes in a sensible manner too..

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  32. Brilliant post Smitha! I feel very strongly about this too.

    Thank you , IHM!

    A friends daughter took Sanskrit in class X (CBSE) – not to learn the language, but because it improved her score (aggregate).

    This happens all the time, IHM! I know so many people, even when I was in school who would go in for certain subjects – just for the marks.. It just takes away from the meaning of education, doesn’t it?

    Once my daughter said the teacher in Nursery was upset with her because the version of a Nursery Rhyme she was found singing was not the one that the school had taught! (She had picked up the rhyme at home) One parent pointed out that it was a mistake to ‘teach’ them rhymes which were not a part of the school syllabus 😦

    Oh goodness!! How can teachers be so dumb!!!! People have such fixed ideas about syllabus.. they talk about children getting confused if anything different is taught.. what about a child’s natural inquisitiveness, I guess doesn’t matter – in our system.. All we need to do is ensure that they ‘know’ everything that is in the syllabus – and nothing more!!!!

    Many Indian parents belive the only purpose you learn anything is to get marks. Learning for knowledge is considered a waste of time.

    Yes, marks have become a bench mark of education.. IHM, some teachers treat people who score well and who don’t differently. I remember, in my school, for some time, only the toppers got to take part in debates and elocutions! It was so unfair.. because the others were never even given a chance! Thank fully, that changed.. But it was bad when that was the practise!

    I taught my daughter at home when she was in UKG, to avoid schools that forced four year olds to fill pages with words – and paid no stress on what the kids actually understood or knew. I think our schools and the system are made for teachers and parents’ convenience (not for kids).

    ‘I think our schools and the system are made for teachers and parents’ convenience (not for kids).’ – I agree!

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