In an international standardized measurement in 2001, Finnish children came top or very close to the top for science, reading and mathematics.
Finland attributes this success to : Finnish children do not start school until they are 7 and rarely take exams or homework until they are well into their teens.* The idea is that before seven they learn best through play, so by the time they finally get to school they are keen to start learning.** “Finland’s historic achievements in delivering educational excellence and equity to its children are the result of a national love of childhood, a profound respect for teachers as trusted professionals, and a deep understanding of how children learn best.”***
Estonia is another country in the top 10 of the PISA list. They attribute their success to focus on equality (all socioeconomic classes get the same education), education is highly valued as is the teaching profession, Teacher autonomy is relatively high, which has been shown to be related to better test scores. Teachers stay with the same students in grades one to three – or sometimes even up to sixth grade – allowing deep relationships to develop.****
Let’s turn the tables around.
Nursery / Kindergarten children in India are made to write, read and cram, usually all before they turn 6 years. How do we fare on PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) testing 15 year olds scholastic performance on mathematics, science, and reading?
In 2009, Indians were left red faced and severely bruised, coming in SECOND LAST among 73 countries, just beating Kyrgystan!!!!
Thereafter India has not participated!
We can argue many a reasons for our dismal performance but the point is whatever we are doing in India with regards to education, is not working. There are growing number of alternative schools (I Only Play In School. I Do Not Study In The School) and higher cases of home schooling because the education system is just not cutting it. A daring mother even pulled her daughter out of school to home-school her because her daughter’s happiness was more important. That 17 year old girl is now in MIT. mumbai teen makes it to mit without attending high school. The best part is that they were not even aiming for MIT. Homeschooling was chosen for happiness and knowledge, which these brave parents felt that the Indian education system was not providing.
Plainly put, neither is our education system anywhere near the top, nor is it bringing up happy, stress free children. Not that I advocate stressing children out in the name of marks, but if we were reigning no.1 in the marks side, then at least it’s worth the stress ( If I can dare say that!).
So what are we – the parents doing?
The schools will only give us what we ask for, nothing more, nothing less. So what are we asking for? Top grades– well then they will drive our children crazy till they get those grades but even that pressure is somehow not translating into worldwide success.
There was a time Indians were ahead of the game (let’s not be fooled by the spate of the Indian origin CEOs in the world – at best they are the few remnants of the old guard, where education was prestigious and teachers were put on a pedestal, at worst it shows the wide-wide gap between the rich and the poor), but then we decided to join the game and as a result lost our lead while other countries have surpassed us.
In our quest to be part of this rat race, Indian children are getting educated earlier and earlier are being made to write, read and learn earlier than their mind and body is prepared for. In the bygone days, a child would be deemed ready for formal education (writing, reading etc.) when she could comfortably put her arm above her head and the fingers could cross the ears!
Coming to day care / preschool, this is a necessity in today’s nuclear family, 2 income families. But how did sending the kids to these centers translate into early formal education? One scenario could be, well-meaning parents who ask – ‘What has my child done in your care? Anything new they ‘learned’ today? Only play?’ Innocent remarks like that can have a far reaching domino effect on the entire education system. How many parents ask – Did my child have fun? Was my child happy? Why is play not enough at kindergarten level?
Then it continues with parents questioning every little thing the school and teacher does. Where is the trust in the institution? To counter this, school franchises have opened up with fixed curriculum from a centralized unit and the teacher has little choice but to work only with that. Autonomy? None.
Teachers are or should be our Gurus. We don’t question our Gurus every step of the way. Top respected, highly paid occupation? Hardly.
We want results and we want them yesterday. This very easily translates into a rush to teach the fastest, the earliest and then boast about the same. If education is only about academics, then we are sadly bringing up 1 dimensional children.
Shouldn’t we be asking the schools to impart patience, happiness, trust, love, care, empathy and above all respect for all? Being successful but within the realm of the above factors? What about ingenuity, creativity? None of these will emerge from 1 class in 1 week/month in this area but a more dedicated, all encompassing environment nurturing these dimensions.
And even if we are asking just for top grades by simply rote and little understanding or little application, then Indian children will continue to be the lowest compared to their international peers. Considering how competitive we are as a nation, its surprising that we have made no strides towards revamping our education system to improve our international ranking. If not for our children’s happiness, then at the very least lets work towards bettering our education system to become the No.1 education system. Along the way, who knows our children just maybe happier and thank us for the same.