By which yardstick do we measure the quality of education?
We live in times where quality is acknowledged only if objective evidence can be produced. Quality needs to be quantifiable and measurable.
We need to see the test scores.
As good parents we are determined to see our children succeed in life. To succeed in life they must get into good schools and get good grades. They must also get good grades to get into said good schools. No, wait. Just good grades do not suffice anymore. The child must give proof of aptitude. How does one quantify aptitude? Simple, we check for evidences that the child had done things in her childhood to reflect said aptitude. So by middle school the child has not only zeroed in on her long term goal, her profession of choice, her preferred major, her targeted schools, but has also embarked upon a five year plan to accumulate credits to get into those schools.
But what about just being? What about just being kids and enjoying their fleeting childhood? What about stopping to smell the roses, or lingering at the cross road to contemplate taking the path less trodden?
Oh come on! Kids nowadays do not have time for such fanciful notions. It’s all about struggling to squeeze out the highest test score.
The winner takes it all.
Recently my son wrote an exam along with over one million kids to compete for just ten thousand seats distributed across ten schools. The school that he wishes to get into has had three student suicides in the last four months, because of the high work stress. Do I really want my only child to go there? Do I want to deal with the added stress of a mother’s overactive imagination running amok any time he doesn’t answer the phone? No.
But do I want my son to get into a good school and ‘succeed’? Yes.
I ask myself, what is it that I really really want as a parent? Yes I want him to get a good education because I’m assuming a good school would contribute to that. Graduating from a good school will enable him to get a good job with a good pay. The pay will allow him to take care of his family and the job will give him a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. What then? What will all of this eventually give him? What is it I really want?
I want him to be happy.
I’m assuming all of this will give him happiness.
As a parent all I really want is that my child should be happy.
So shouldn’t the focus be on happiness, rather than success? Why confuse the intermediate goal with the ultimate vision.
Whenever his scores are low, he comes and asks me, “Mom, are you disappointed?”
I reply, “Did you give it your best shot? If yes, then I’m not disappointed. Just be the best that you can be. Be your own yardstick.”
He asks to buy ‘non syllabus’ books before exams. I say go ahead. Money spent on books is money well spent. True education has no syllabus.
He’s still going to go ahead and try for this super competitive college. That’s his decision. To a large extent he’s influenced by the madness around him. On my part, all I can do is to keep reassuring him that there are many paths to happiness, and not all of them require certificates, and that at any point it’s totally ok to stop to smell the roses. Or just binge on marathon sessions of Minecraft.