Friday, August 31, 2012

Choosing A School  - Part 3 - The Process of Decision Making

In the first two parts of this series, we discussed the different types of school and their value systems and the role of a school in scripting your child’s character. A child centric school has strong value systems and script our children in ways to make them winners in life.  In the concluding part of the series we look at the process of decision making itself.

Am I or the System to Blame?

A lot of us parents have grown up blaming our education system and our schools for the various problems they created in our lives. Some of us have gone through the trauma of insensitive teachers who took the life out of a subject, or the huge demands of a stressful examination culture which sacrificed true learning at the altar of marks.
As parents, our own school experience is behind us,  but we do have the responsibility in making a crucial choice for our children.  These choices should be an outcome of  highly involved decision making. This awareness is very important.  If your child doesn’t enjoy his schooling, will you be able to blame the system? Perhaps not.

Decision Making : Who Holds The Remote Control?
There is a very dangerous trend in the brand conscious consumerist  Indian society today when it comes to choosing schools.  We want social reaffirmation for the choice of school they make. We want to be seen as sporting the right brand. Many a times, the need is to show to others that I too can afford a expensive school. Often we use our adult world views to decide our children’s schools - the notions of 5 star ambience, air-conditioned classrooms etc tend to dominate the decision making process.

Many parents see their children as a instrument of winning social approval by claiming that their child goes to so-and-so school. In my interactions with a group of parents I was once told that a certain family had chosen a school which was very  expensive and far away because his company director sends his kids there!

There are also some parents who over simplify the school selection process. After all most schools are just the same, they claim. Many a times parents see themselves as successful products of a imperfect system and think my child will also come out successful if I merely repeat the experience. Many such parents are left ruing their decisions when the results turnout otherwise in this rather complex game of life and education.

A lot of times parents hand over the most critical decision of a school based on other peoples judgements. Come to think of it, most parents obsess over every little thing that they choose for their kids (including their spouses in adulthood!) but blindly go with the herd when it comes to choosing a school. We must be aware that the choice of the school must be made with great degree of awareness of schools and their motive centers and the need of my child (refer to the articles part 1 and 2 of this series)

As a responsible parent, I must do the due dilligence, my own personal research and firmly hold on to my remote control. My remote control must be wired to respond to my values and understanding of my child and my personal vision for the child. The remote control should surely not be linked to my adult notion of comfort and social esteem. Least of all must I allow the ‘education system’ to take its own course in my child’s life.

When My Child Grows Up...

For most parents who are choosing a school for their child in the entry stages, it will be a good decade and a half before the fruits of your child’s education will be tested in the real world. The skills and attitudes I equip my child with today must be capable of holding their own in the 21st century.

It is pertinent to ask what subjects and skills will be relevant most in the next couple of decades. The generation of parents who are successful today are typically professionals, who are technically skilled and possess managerial skills. Most have become successful because they were most adept in dealing with the fact based education systems which tested our abilities to reproduce facts. The current generation has also by and large thrived on the left brain - math and logical reasoning  being the most highly sought after skills - the gateways to careers in IT, management, law, medicine and research. The combination of fact based knowledge testing and left brain (logical thinking) strengths have been sure formula to success.

When we look ahead for the future of the kids, we must ask questions of ourselves and of the schools what is the right balance of skills we need. Most education systems tend to be stuck in their own paradigms and Indian systems notoriously so. A lot of research in the field of education have pointed out the weaknesses of fact based systems of education. The tech support person who troubleshoots your hung laptop or helps you set up the advanced features of your cell phone   is not a ‘real’ engineer. The person you have called is merely enabled with a gigantic  decision support system which knows more than the best engineer.  The internet and host of technology innovations have zeroed the gaps between the fact haves and have nots. Our children when they grow up will no longer win just because they knew more facts than the next person. Still our schools continue to obsess over knowledge and fact, and not the ability to create knowledge and acquire  facts.

New age thinkers like Daniel Pink have already proclaimed that the right brainers will rule the next decades, with their superior creativity skills, ability to relate to people and to do big picture thinking. This kind of research is a huge pointer to what we must do with our kids. A school has to stroke and develop right brained thinking in a deliberate way - a huge shift in the ways our schools think. The choices the schools make in the importance they give to music, arts, dance and creativity will make a world of a difference to our children and their preparation for  the life ahead.


In todays era the nuclear families are getting more and  more isolated, allowing for lesser degree of socio-emotional development of children. Children, instead of spending quality time with their grandparents, are often being left at the mercy of the televsion and in the hands of day cares or maids, or other paid sources of emotional support. Parents are always busy in their 21st century lifestyles, and perhaps the only real source of unconditional affirmations for children are becoming even more scarce. To make matters worse, children watch TV channels which  endlessly feed the Win/Lose script. Channels are  obsessed with increasingly bizarre reality shows, melodramatic family serials  and endless competitions (even children are not spared) - all of which deepen the I Win - You Lose script. A large part of the society who are nursing these win/lose scripts find succour in watching   these  programs thus completing the dangerous circle of dependence and viral growth.            

The decision is regarding choice of a school is not a easy one. We need to understand the power-centers of the schools to understand their child centricity. We further need to deeply evaluate schools and understand their potential  influence on child’s psychological scripting. The view we have the future becomes yet another big factor to decide our school choice. The choice of a school asks a question of your world view and value systems too. Do you have or aspire to have the same kind of child centric and powerful scripting force that you should seek in the school?  Your values must match those of the school if you want to have a harmonious relationship with your childs education experience over the next 15 years.  

1 comment:

Ramashree said...

I enjoyed reading your articles on choosing a school. Lets hope many parents will benefit from it.

If I may add something: we live in a world of dichotomies. We may be staunch believers in a win/win philosophy but still have to deal with percentiles and grades and cut-off and other such win/lose paradigms. As far as a child is concerned, the person who reconciles such dichotomies in a smooth way, interprets them in action and actually hands him the data from which he forms his psyche, is the person in front of him - the teacher in the class. So whereas the 'big picture' of the school is very important - and I congratulate you on a very succinct categorization of schools and their values - meeting the teacher in the classroom up close and personally is, so to speak, the proof of the pudding...