Why children fail

How should parents help their children excel in academics?

It makes better sense to discuss this question with parents. The discussion that follows could be directly shared with parents, without any need to edit.

To be frank, this is a wrong question for a parent to be worried about; school is the primary institution for academic excellence and family has a secondary role (e.g. follow the homework regimen in letter and spirit.) Yet, the question is significantly important for parents in these times as schools are not living up to expectations.

Let us start the discussion on this question by evaluating the effectiveness of what most parents are currently doing to help their children excel in academics – enlisting the support of tuition or coaching. Is tuition a solution to poor academic education at schools?

To be honest, the thought of tuition (till Class X) is the first alarm bell that things are already wrong. Seeking tuition support is to inflict damage beyond repair; tuition is not part of the solution. This is not to say that children do not need support at home, and for many homes parents are not the ones to expect support from.

The ideal form of support for children is self-learning; children must be able to help themselves. Obviously, off and on children would need support from others too. Parents should arrange for this ‘off and on’, ‘on demand’ support required by children. Interestingly, this ‘on demand’ support is the way the world supports children; the right form of the support is ‘tutor’ not tuitions.

Tutoring support is significantly one-on-one, need-based and never ‘teaches like the teacher’; tutoring is child-initiated, problem solving oriented and follows demonstrated attempts to solutions by children. Of course, tutoring support will be expensive per interactions, just get it once a week and make your child and the tutor better plan the rest of the week. Tutoring should be used to cultivate a sense of responsibility towards self by providing help that is not crippling.

If teaching in class did not help a child, more of the same in tuition classes will not help either. Besides the help of tutors, the following three changes in your child’s educational context will help create the best assurance of quality education of your child:

  1. Please make your home a reading home. Schools are not developing reading skills and reading is THE most powerful and critical tool for learning. Reading is directly linked to thinking skills and thus to creativity. Build a mini library of books at home! The level of language needed for excelling in maths, science and Social sciences is typically at level 4 – the highest level of language competence. And language command at that level can only come out of volumes of reading in the language of instruction, even if the mother tongue is the language of instruction.
  2. Ensure self-learning capability and opportunity. The two pre-requisites of self-learning are – language competence and conceptual clarity with respect to prior knowledge. A reading home will ensure adequate command over language. Knowledge needs knowledge; every new knowledge can only be built on the foundations of some ‘prior knowledge’. Concept-based teaching and learning of maths and science will ensure conceptual base to understand new concepts.
  3. Ensure good study and memory management skills. Someone has to train children to understand the importance of planning, monitoring, remedying and applying it in their study at home. Memory management is a ‘well-articulated’ science and must be put into practice with some discipline.

At another plane, seek changes in your child’s school to ensure no supplementing support is needed at home and your child becomes a self-learner. The following are the three important changes you must seek from the school:

  1. Academic-level competence in the language of instruction for all students to ensure children can read and understand a good part of the books on their own.
    In other words, the first ‘academic goal’ of the schools should be to ‘set ALL the students on the path to achieving academic-level language skills in the medium of instruction’.
  2. Create ‘class-less’ curriculum transactions beyond the prescribed books; a critical incentive to be provided to self-learners is to enable them to seamlessly explore knowledge in interested topics and remain interested in self-learning
    It may be known that some school systems across the world have such curricular settings. There are no prescribed books (i.e. syllabus) till class VI, there is only a given curriculum which must be achieved through the use of any set of books and all other sources of knowledge.
  3. Allow students to study the curriculum of a band of classes (e.g. students in class VI could be studying concepts from classes VI – VIII). Schools do not do this because they cannot handle it – they cannot timetable it. But that is no reason not to do it. Technology should be harnessed to tide over the complexities of creating such dynamic timetables.

To summarise, the best way to help your child achieve excellence in academics is to help your child become a self-learner with ‘on-demand’ support from tutors! Tuition being a complete no.

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