Sunday, July 09, 2017
There was a workshop for parents in Anjana's school yesterday. It was an interesting experience. Here is the summary of it (some of them are not statements made by anyone but my own interpretations):
1. It happens only in Bangalore. You won't get this kind of mix anywhere else in this country. There were parents from many different parts of the country. Interestingly most of the discussion was around languages. A lady with a typical south Indian small town look said she is a Bengali from UP and she finds the standard of Hindi education is not on par with that in UP and asked how the school is planning to address this. It's not the usual sensitive nonsense. In fact, she surprised everyone when she said she chose Kannada as the third language for her daughter and she also learnt it from her daughter over time. She spoke sensibly and said it's a real concern because when they come to board exams they will have to appear for the same Hindi papers as those from UP. The Principal tried to explain why it would never happen as UP can never teach Kannada like how it's done in Karnataka or for that matter the focus given for English is not the same in Karnataka and UP. That way, the south Indian states cannot even be compared with Maharashtra or West Bengal when it comes to Hindi education. There were also talks about the political dimension and the language policies of the center and different states. Another interesting thing was that there was an educationalist who said was from UP herself but explained why southern states can't be expected to choose Hindi as the second language. Educationalists all over the world advocate education in mother tongue but India couldn’t stick to it due to various reasons. So English will be the first language in most schools and the local language will be the second language. It won’t be fair to make them third language by any standard. Adding to the diversity, there was another lady, who said she is a Tamil born and grew up in Bangalore, learnt only English and Kannada in school, works in a central Government department, talked about the importance of learning the language of the land and also about how she learnt Hindi from her children over time. She didn't speak against Hindi but expressed her inability to teach her children Hindi and explained how learning Hindi helped her understand the central Government communications which are mostly in Hindi. They also said a north Indian child finds it easier to learn French easily relating it with English compared to a south Indian language and likewise a south Indian child finds it easier to learn French than Hindi. In summary, the language problem in schools is not new, it has been there for generations now and it’s going to stay for some more time. Governments have gone back and forth on this and they will continue to do this depending on the acceptance or backlash from states. No school has a clear strategy to tackle this.
2. Don't push your children to speak any other language than mother tongue until they are 5. If you have chosen English as the language of communication at home, that’s a different story. Whether you speak English or an Indian language, both have its own pros and cons. If you have decided to live here, you have to be proficient in a local language else you will lose out on a lot of things. You will realize it when you go to a Government office or when you do major things like buying of property, etc.
3. Don't push them to write anything until they are 10. The focus at this stage should be only learning words and speaking comfortably and once they are comfortable speaking effortlessly in a language writing will come naturally. Handwriting contests and cursive writing skills are all things of past now. The future generation is going to write very less and type more. So don’t push the same things that were pushed to you in your childhood.
4. Restrict contents and watch their online activities but don’t stop them from using computers and internet. It will only bottle up their interest and explode when they get access first time as you can’t stop them forever. Googling answers is as good as discussing with someone or writing an open book exam. It’s not like copying from somewhere. It does take some intelligence to do this.
5. Encourage them to participate in any one sport or activity outside of education as most times that gives them the fuel to do well in education. Most children who score the highest marks credit their success to other activities that they took up. E.g. dance, music, sports, etc.
6. Today's parents are overly anxious about their children and over-protective. In the process, they fail to teach them about the true nature of life. We should tell them that life won't be fair always. There will be disappointments, failures and frustrations. They have to learn to deal with it.
7. The teachers plan their approach based on the average intelligence of the class. They focus more on the children who are below average though they don’t lose sight on intelligence children. This means that if you think your child was born to conquer the world it becomes your responsibility to provide the platform for your child and you can’t push the teachers too much. They didn’t say this. This is my interpretation from the discussion.
8. IB (International Baccalaureate) is an education program that focuses on overall development of the child based on their own scientifically proven methods all over the world. Indians were attracted to it too. But they were never comfortable with no-exams, no-text-books approach. They keep putting pressure on schools to have exams and text books. This ‘we want to be there but we don’t want to be there’ attitude is one of the biggest challenges that schools with IB program have to deal with. Some parents are still not able to shed the baggage of their generation’s question-answer type reading. They do more harm to the next generation than good.