It is time to restore some sanity to our society’s widespread anxiety towards education. How much more can parents do to give their children a head start? How much more head start do children need to do well in life? No, I have got the second question wrong, as perhaps some parents have. I should ask, how much more head start do children need to do well in their academic career? And how much do they need to achieve academically to do well in life?
Every year we witness parents’ epic efforts to get their children admitted into the top primary schools. This desperation has spread, perhaps inevitably, to the enrichment and tuition industry, with the more coveted agencies enjoying the luxury of being able to screen their customers and charge exorbitant fees. This is all because parents want to give their children a boost and help them get ahead of their peers.
Has anyone actually looked long and hard at how much advantage is enjoyed by children who are thus rigorously nurtured? I suppose, if one has been coached repeatedly in Mathematical sums or scientific facts, he can hardly help getting higher scores in tests and examinations, just as a shot of steroids is bound to improve one’s sporting performance. The short term benefit may not reflect greater cognitive development or learning ability. And does nothing, of course, for the child’s growth in character.
Where do we factor in holistic development in the torrent of instruction our children are swamped in? A child typically spends most of the day in the classroom before being whisked off to enrichment and tuition centres. The remaining few hours of the day are spent completing homework, with mummy supervising by the side. After a long and tiring day, I usually like to crash unto my sofa and watch mindless TV, preferably reruns. I wonder how differently children cope with stress. Yet we expect them to benefit from this incessant intravenous drip of teaching.
What if, after all, less is more? One cannot make a plant grow faster by watering it more often. Give the child time to observe, to explore, to invent, and most of all, to rest. It is natural to want one’s child to be the best of the lot, but some things are just beyond our control and influence. This leads me back to the question at the end of my first paragraph: And how much do children need to achieve academically to do well in life? Surely there is more than one pathway to success and personal fulfilment, and this can be discovered by our children...unless they are too tired to look. Don’t let them be.