Role of parents

Do we really know our children?

Unfortunately, we do not really know our children. Sandeep discovered this reality the hard way as he and his wife started to ‘home educate’ their daughter.

Expectedly, one of our research interests has been to uncover how much of the current state of entropy prevalent in school education (or education across the board for that matter) is attributable to the current ‘genre of children’! We suspected it to be the most significant source of dissonance within school education – that our children are far too different compared to us but we continue to school them in almost similar ways (for instance, little has changed in schools between 1950s and 2010s).

Is the ‘raw material’ of schools significantly different (at least in the urban schools) compared to yesteryears?

It did not occur to us until a couple of years ago that we could ask children as to ‘who they are’, what they see themselves as? And here is the listing of what they think they are, from the proverbial horse’s mouth (take it with a pinch of salt because the sample of children may have been a bit outlier of sorts):

a. Jacks of multi-media
The digital devices – hard and soft – are their toys. Paper, pencil, eraser, crayons, etc. are not their media! Have the grace to accept that Information Technology is perhaps the single-biggest difference between us and our children – the best among us will be ‘IT challenged’ compared to our children.
And there is something genetic about it – parents, irrespective of their profession and education are challenged and children irrespective of their socio-economic background are tech savvy! The latter fact also holds the greatest reason to hope for universal quality education, by innovatively harnessing technology!
Enable students with e-learning!
b. Big heads (= Argumentative, young Indians)
They ask questions! Reverence for parents and other adults is not shown through ‘unquestioned submission’.
Increase lateral discussions in classrooms!
c. Socialites at the age of 7
They use Facebook at the age of 7! They do have a definite social life at 7 (in many cases, at an even younger age). They expect us to help them manage it rather than stub it out.
Parents and teachers must grow more sensitive to the ‘social context in classrooms’, just as all businesses and social organisations are!
d. Adults at 12
They are themselves at 12! They assert at 12! They blame this on us, parents, – we have pushed them to ‘take charge’ early (we are too busy in our lives).
Pedagogy is dead, welcome andragogy as the ‘technology’ to teach children!
Incidentally, andragogy (also spelled as androgogy) is the way adults learn (it is discussed in the second book but just search for it on the Internet to know more).
e. Prefer Splitsvilla over Tom ‘n’ Jerry
Their games and toys are different! They are seeing a lot of life rather early, a change they are not really comfortable with.
They are not kids anymore; teachers and parents can have more ‘adult-like talk’ with them.
f. Study = Waste of time
Of course, this is how fourth-generation learners (children whose great grandparents were ‘schooled’) associate with the whole experience of ‘study at school’. They fail to appreciate all the focus on textbooks and lack of freedom to think, play and debate theories and applications.
Stop teaching, and they will learn!
g. Teacher = Lost ‘hands down’
Once again, this is how fourth-generation learners associate with many a teacher at school – they are as ‘confused’ as the children they teach and they only hand down their doubts to children.
Stop teaching, become co-learners; show them ‘how to be a learner’!
h. School = An institution to show who is the boss
We hope this is a rather personal experience of the sample as they all faced consistent bullying in school. They explain the aforementioned issue as ‘the principal dictates the teachers, teachers dictate the students and parents, and students dictate one another’, it is bullying all the time – different shades, maybe.
School leaders need to be far better role models!
i. Popular discussion = Relevance of parents
They miss their parents and are forced to find love and affection in peers. We, parents, must fit into their lives! If we do it with grace, they will, of course, walk ahead of us in gratitude. They want a loving home.
Parents, parent! There is nothing called good parenting, just be the parents the way our parents were to us.
j. Career – Why is it important?
‘Bade ho ke kya banna chahte ho’ (‘What do you wish to be when you grow up’?) is not their cup of tea … they simply cannot decide so soon – there are just too many opportunities. We, parents grew up in times of scarcity of career choices (and everything else too).
If we can afford, give children a longer rope in career choices!

What are the implications for schools and homes out of the aforementioned characterisation of our children?

Here is how we see it:

  1. Treat (teach) them like adults – andragogy – peer learning, lateral exchanges, limited top down, significantly bottom-up. The classroom transaction has to be turned on its head.
  2. Accept the changed significance, content, process and dynamics of socialisation of our children.
  3. Curricular academics, at least as it is, makes little sense to them. Get a new curriculum – new goals (outcomes), syllabi, content, lesson plans and assessments!
  4. Support widest exploration of interests for our children to help them figure out their chosen career.
  5. They are already tech-smart, teachers could very well learn from them and take their assistance in enabling tech-savvy classrooms and not block state of art technology entering schools!
  6. Homes and even business organisations have become a lot more democratic in conduct of affairs but schools are still far away from it.
  7. The Internet as a medium needs to be organically integrated into their education routine very quickly.
  8. Significantly increase the proportion of ‘co-curricular’ content into the routine of schools and offer it at a much higher levels of expertise!

On the whole, we believe that raising children in these times could turn out to be our biggest vertex of success and stress-buster.

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