Educating ourselves…

.. is such a huge part of being a parent. There are so many things that I have learnt in the last five years of being a mother. Usha’s post on Perspectives reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend of mine.

She has a daughter a year younger than mine, and she goes to a private school. Before I go further, let me explain the schooling system here. Most children in the primary level go to state schools. Only around 8% or so go to private schools. There are several very good state schools, and if you are in a good state school, the education is quite good, and comparable to private schools.

So this friend of mine sends her child to a private school, and is not very impressed by ‘what they are teaching her’, in her words. Just to put things into perspective, she has been quite worried about her child’s education(or the lack of it) since the time the child was just 3. At that time she was concerned that her daughter did not know how to write. Here, they do not pressurize the children to write, they encourage, and the child picks up when they are ready for it. For some reason, she keeps comparing the education standards with that in India – whether it makes sense or not.

So coming back to her worries, she is worried because the school does not send back daily feedback – no homework, and nothing for the parent to work upon. So I explained to her that it is quite similar in Poohi’s school as well. They don’t really send back much work. They only ask us to spend around 10 minutes a day reading with a child. But that did not satisfy her – it is fine for Poohi’s school to send back no work, because it is a state school(free), but in a private school, where they are paying for an education, they should get the child to do more..

Now this is something I find difficult to get my head around. Paid or not, surely what matters is how well they ensure that the child picks up things. Given the fact that the education system is quite different from what we are used to, back in India, I think we really ought to approach it differently. We cannot after all expect the same sort of studying pattern, curriculum or teaching styles from two very different systems.

Every time I go to Poohi’s school, I can’t help be amazed at the amount of work the teachers put in. I really don’t find anything to complain about nor can I ask for anything more from them. The efforts that the teachers put in ensures that the children are motivated and excited by work. For instance, we got the overview of the curriculum for the next term, at the end of the last term. The children had been told of what they would learn too. One of the topics was ‘Dinosaurs’. Poohi came home excited, opened her book of dinosaurs( we just happened to have a book), and read through everything. Apparently,’When Mrs C asks the class, I can put my hand up!’ was the motivation behind it. She is so excited about learning, that she makes that extra effort without any prompting from anybody else. I can honestly say that this sort of excitement can only come from teachers who have made it all so exciting for them, that they look forward to learning more.

Yes, they might not send home books and books of homework, they might not force children to write or read, but they make it fun, they make it interesting, so much so that the children want to learn more. They are motivated, not pressurized. That is all I ask for! That happiness on daughter’s face when she learns, when she picks up new things, makes links of how dinosaurs dying out is similar to how people evolved from monkeys – what more can a parent ask for? We get to see the work that our children do at school during the Parent teachers evening, and it is amazing! They do a lot at school. They cover so much ground, that there is no real need to send home work. Children do get some work, but it is not a huge amount of stuff, and a lot of it involves a child using her creativity, thinking and understanding what needs to be done. When I see daughter working on her learning logs, I am amazed at how her mind works. It goes to show that young minds are so fresh, and innovative, that they can indeed come up with incredible stuff, if we let them be.

Usha also talks about the environment at home affecting the child. So many times when I hear mothers lamenting that their children show interest only in TV shows and would never pick up a book of their own, I can’t help asking how many times they pick up books instead of the TV remote? Not that being a reading parent guarantees a reading child, but being around books, does encourage a child to read(in my opinion). After all, we parents are the first role models that our children have. Taking a child to the library regularly for an outing will making him/her think of reading as a fun activity rather than a chore or a ‘homework’.

And yes, if you do have genuine grievances, talking to the teachers and understanding their point of view is far more useful isn’t it than worrying and complaining that the teachers are no good? And no matter what we think, children do pick up on what the parent thinks. If the parent is unhappy or dismissive of the teachers efforts, chances are that the child may not take the teacher seriously either..

Every time I hear a parent criticize teachers, I can’t help feel uneasy. While I am sure there are several uncommitted teachers, I am sure that there are plenty of wonderful teachers out there. At least I was lucky to have some great ones.. And Poohi has had wonderful teachers so far. As a parent, what I really want to do is be a team with my child’s teacher, to work along with them, to bring out the best in my child. Yes, there might be times when she might not have the best of teachers, but that is when I will need to step up and be there for her.. And hopefully, I will be able to give her what she needs to learn, to grow and to expand her horizons….

Edited to add: Do read Sheils post on how wonderfully creative learning can be! 

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20 thoughts on “Educating ourselves…

  1. It’s the same situation here the only difference being that there are three Indian schools in the city…If parents decide to put their kids in an international school (IB), then they should live with the style of teaching and curriculum…They shouldn’t complain…They have a choice…You can’t expect your kids to get an international education with an Indian curriculum…Also, I’ve noticed that Indian parents don’t hesitate to complain to the teacher if their kids haven’t received good grades…

    • Oh this happens all the time, and even with children we know have a difficulty in understanding concepts/ expressing themselves/ are part of remedial teaching. Sigh. Each parent thinks his/her child should get a good grade, whether or not he/she is deserving of it!

      • ‘They shouldn’t complain…They have a choice…You can’t expect your kids to get an international education with an Indian curriculum…Also, I’ve noticed that Indian parents don’t hesitate to complain to the teacher if their kids haven’t received good grades…’ This is so true, Sraboney! As you said, they had a choice. Here, you don’t have a choice in terms of curriculum – but then if you so badly want Indian curriculum, then isn’t it best to relocate there? Rather than complain about it here? As for kids not receiving good grades – surely, that has more to do with the children than the teachers? Some parents like to think that there is some elaborate conspiracy against their children 🙂

  2. Smitha, this is such an uplifting post, because I read of children who enjoy their learning, of teachers who participate in it, and of a parent whose eyes are open to her child and the potential she has 🙂 Thank you Smitha!

    You know, I can see the efforts that the teachers put in. They do so much! I mean, I know I would not be able to do so much, so how can I complain 🙂

    I’m surprised by your friend’s insistence or expectation, of a similar structured system of education (which, I don’t think really helps!), being in a more open minded environment, but then they would hark back to their own schooling and stuff, and what they perceive as “better”/ “right” way for a child to learn!

    Yes, for some reason, they feel that lots of books, loads of homework, etc is an indicator of how much the child has been ‘taught’. But if you ask me, I find that daughter knows so much. She actually enjoys reading and maths, as opposed to doing it because she has to.

    Your daughter is also lucky to have a teacher who her light up her own way, and bring in the self motivation, which is so sadly lacking here! For every truly committed teacher there are several who aren’t as are in each field of human endeavour. But somehow the labelling sticks harder with the teaching community, for the obvious reason that they work with the most precious clay.

    I agree. There are several teachers who are in the profession for the worng reasons.. And of course, it affects children.. But if we, as parents were more appreciative of the good teachers, then hopefully even the not so good ones, might be inspired to do more.. Right now, I feel that even the most committed teachers might be put off by the parents’ attitudes…
    Thank you again, Smitha. I’m inspired 🙂

    Oh no! I am the one inspired by committed teachers like you – who make such a huge difference in so many childrens lives!

  3. loved what you wrote Smitha…my mom is a teacher and she would love what you wrote…and preen a bit as well 🙂

    🙂 Thank you RM 🙂 I am sure your mom is one of those wonderful teachers we all adore 🙂

    but its true..in India we emphasize ONLY on learning by rote 😦 I would love to make R study abroad only because of the lovely education system they have!

    There is good and bad in every system.. We can only try to make the most of the good.. So far, I love the way Poohi’s school goes about teaching. I should do a separate post on how some science fundamentals were taught. It is amazingly simple, and taught in a way that it stays in their minds.. Without learning anything by rote!

  4. I think its the indian parents who criticize more.. homework hits kids when they are in year 7 or 8 .. thats when they start to get pushed .. till then its like easy slow and steady..

    Yes, I have heard that – and it makes sense too, doesn’t it?

    I admire the job of teachers especially here in uk , they do put so much work the problem is as in india the MARKS and the percentage does not come out hence indians here think the teacher is doing nothing.. as the report end of year does not show , oh ur child got 99.99999% or in some cases 101% 🙂

    So true! A lot of us don’t feel that they are doing much simply because they don’t come home with a report card full of marks. Daughter did come home with a report card, it was such a beautiful analysis of her year. They had several categories and a lot of information on her progress – I loved reading through that!

    I could not be a teacher although i did apply for job and went for 4 days 🙂 and nope its not my cup of tea especially here in uk.. I am not cut out for that ..
    Same here – it is certainly not an easy job, which is why I feel indebted to the teachers who do so much for my daughter.
    all teachers are good i think.. put it this way i am where I am because of my teachers ..

    Absolutely – even the bad ones have helped shape us in some way, after all..

  5. Fantastic post, Smits! I loved loved loved what you said about working with your child’s teacher as a team in order to bring out the best in your child. That IS the right approach but sadly I know of parents who approach their kids’ teachers as though they are at some kind of a war with them :(. You have to hear the kind of experiences Amma encounters with parents on a daily basis.

    I am sure Aunty must have loads of experiences like that! Such a sad state no?

    Will b back to comment in detail and head over to Usha’s post as well. Gosh how I am dying to get my comp back, am missing out on so many great posts!

    I thought you got your laptop back when I saw tha you had taken your turn in Scrabble! Waiting for your laptop to get well soon 🙂

  6. //As a parent, what I really want to do is be a team with my child’s teacher, to work along with them, to bring out the best in my child//
    Absolutely!
    I have met parents and teachers who think learning in school is only about rote learning and filling pages with written material that the child may or may not understand. One mother once told me, I was making a mistake by singing nursery rhymes with my kids (just for fun) because they might pick a different version than the one in the ‘syllabus’ in playschool (ages two and a half to three and a half).

    Goodness! Some people are so obsessed with what the child should know – they actually measure their own success based on how much their child knows 😦

    Many Indian parents also feel learning is only about how much more or less the child knows than the rest of the class 😦
    Oh yes! It is all about the comparison factor, after all! This lady I mentioned in the post, also compares her daughter’s height to my daughter’s – who by the way is a year older.. And even if they were the same age, there are so many factors that come into play! Why compare at all in the first place, is beyond me!

  7. I totally argee with you Smita…. Even I have seen parents setting expectations from schools depending upon the fees charged by the school… I wonder how can people set expectations on that ground… I mean whether you pay thousands or you pay lakhs a three year kid will be a three year kid only… You can’t expect him to know every word in his textbooks and be able to write everything…

  8. Pingback: Creative Learning | A Slice of My World

    • I loved, loved your post!!! I love education which allows the child to think, to express in her own way! That was so creative of your daughter! I would love for my daughter to have an education like that!

  9. Wonderful post! LOVED it!

    Thank you!

    I have always felt the flaws in the Indian education system, and have always admired the way the education systems in other countries work. That said, I have been lucky to have some wonderful teachers in India, and I am sure there are uncommitted teachers everywhere. I am referring to the general system of education, based on what I have learnt about education in other countries from blogs and news articles.

    Absolutely! There are all sorts of teachers everywhere…

    I am all for creative teaching that makes a child reach into the recesses of his/her mind and find out what really interests them. Concepts like ‘Show and tell’ fascinate me, and make me wish I had them in my school.

    A child is supposed to learn at school, not at home, I believe. Largely. The education process should happen at school, it can be supplemented from home. It is good that the schools there do a lot of creative work with the kids and that they do not have to carry work home. It is not necessary that a child SHOULD get homework from school. What really matters is how much the child is learning and exploring, right?

    Absolutely!
    Loved your views about educating Poohi. 🙂 Wish you all the very best with that!

    Thank you – I do hope that she continues to get such wonderful teachers all through her life..

    BTW you should read a book called Totto Chan: The Little Girl At The Window by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi. It is all about a particular school that adopted a very different way of teaching in Japan. Nice read. I might even have a PDF copy of the book, though I am not sure. Let me know if you would like one.

    Will check it out. Will let you know if I want the pdf 🙂 Thanks loads – I love this about blogging – we get to know so much more than we would have otherwise, no?

  10. It’s madness I tell you 😡 the way Indians here make their kids take extra classes to learn the Indian syllabus. Can you imagine a 5 year old Kindergartener putting in double the hours and effort to study two different syllabus of the same class?? and then we have the nerve to call these kids ABCD’s 🙄

    • So many parents do that here as well! The poor children! I feel so sorry for them! And can you imagine the confusion? Having to understand the two different syllabus?

  11. I can honestly say that this sort of excitement can only come from teachers who have made it all so exciting for them, that they look forward to learning more.
    Poohi is lucky to be in such a school! a school which motivates her to pick up a text book instead of a remote…

    Yes, we are indeed lucky when it came to this school.. But over all the primary education here is quite good – they engage the children really well.

    I hope the Indian curriculum will also change.. CBSE is trying to change but since my children are older, they did not have a chance to enjoy the new curriculum. But then, even the parent needs help.. it is very easy to get worried when one is used to an old system.

    I am sure it will.. Our education system has it’s positives too.. Just that we can’t expect the same sort of education in every country.

  12. Loved your post! This seems just like my daughter’s situation. She is in first grade and goes to a public school, I was initially in the same boat as your friend, now after I heard about the activities that they do at school, I am truly impressed. My daughter wants to know all about the types of stars, she asked what a binary star is. I credit her teacher for inducing this interest in her. Schooling system here in US is great.

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