Tighten your belt! The discussion on this question may just be too harsh a reality for you.
You would have already read several times in this book that schools have not really changed in the past 200 years. You may also have read the section ‘Organic linkages with society’ and recall that schools were architected on the foundation of the following distinctive features:
- Students have poor reading and writing skills because all students are essentially 1st generation learners
- Teachers are the ‘readers and transactors’ of the prescribed textbooks; teachers have to simply ‘get the book across’ to the students as they cannot read for themselves and progress report for parents could also be gross in communicating developmental details (unschooled parents could not do anything with ‘micro-progress’ reports.)
- ‘Books are the bible’ (they contained a good fraction of the world’s knowledge) – comprehensive enough to give the students the knowledge for career of their choice in industry
The next question is obvious – what is the connection of these facts with your child’s education?
There is a very strong connection between the aforementioned facts about school education system and your child’s progress in the system. Over the past 200 years, schools have ended up perfecting the art and science of teaching within the limits of the three conditions mentioned above. As a result, the following are three commandment schools swear by:
- Schools can ‘ONLY be effective in teaching 1st generation (or practically 1st generation) learners
- Teachers can be the ONLY ‘readers and transactors’ of the contents of the (prescribed) textbooks, many a times verbatim and without really understanding the essence
- Prescribed syllabus is God’s ultimate revelation as the ONLY content to be taught
Therefore, schools’ capabilities and processes are fine-tuned for the three commandments and have grown very rigid over time to be efficient. If a child and her parents are happy to ‘play ignorant’, be passive and limit the world to textbooks, the child will excel in school; the flip side is equally likely – if a child and her parents do not live by what the school offers, the child will become a ‘slow learner’, sooner or later, unable to self-learn and steadily lose interest in books.
This context sets the stage for the discussion on your child – why is the school not able to help your child (in achieving academic excellence). There are two possible conditions with respect to your child –
a. Your child is a ‘later-generation’ learner (for instance, a 3rd generation learner) and can read and write well in the language of instruction; your child could easily develop into a self-learner.
However, teachers are not trained to ‘teach’ self-learners i.e. most teachers cannot visualise any role for them in a class where the students can read and mostly follow what they read, many teachers just read the text of the prescribed books and explain the ‘literal meaning’ of the same. ‘Teaching’ significantly beyond the contents of the prescribed books is a rare distinction.
As a result, the only way the teachers can conduct the class is to ‘ignore’ your child and others and continue with ‘reading and explaining the book’. Over time your child’s reading and writing competencies will decline due to ‘non application’ in schools’ classwork or homework.
Clearly, schools cannot do much good to ‘self-learning capable’ children! Schools were never created for ‘self-learning capable’ children and their only fault is that they have not really changed in the past 200 years to handle the growing number of higher-generation learners who enter schools’ portals with good reading and language skills.
b. Your child is a 1st generation learner. She is the right one to benefit from ‘schooling’ but then she has to be the lucky one to avoid the chaffing more realistically, schools have been an institution to separate the ‘wheat from the chaff’; schools go through a ‘time-tabled’ routine of teaching the books, homework, tests, exams, various events and those students who somehow manage to keep up with the autonomous pace of school do well at school. Pray for your child!
Clearly, schools facelessly work on the students. The school cannot be specifically worried about your child and work on her! You can get tuition, coaching, buy projects off the shelf, etc. for your child to be on the right side of those successful in school.
Of course, it is far starker in India! Our country is short of teachers who could be trained to ‘teach students who are good readers, skilled writers and logically agile.’ Therefore, schools ‘are forced to’ fall back on what they are certain of, which is, educating 1st-generation-equivalent students through teachers with communicative-level language skills, who can only try to complete the prescribed books during the academic year. You cannot help but appreciate the schools’ predicaments. Teachers cannot be hired from another planet and cannot even be developed as role model learners after poor quality school and college education.
To summarise, at the moment, schools are ‘pulling down the students’ to make schools work instead of ‘pulling up the students’ and realign the school’s capabilities.
Your child is enrolled in schools at a wrong time – schools current capabilities are worthless in the ‘boundless information-on-top’ knowledge society and schools have not picked up newer teaching-learning capabilities. Schools must transform to help your child grow from strength to strength as a self-learner by stopping ‘teaching of textbooks as bible’. You can only prod your child’s school to transform while it matters to you!
*Most ironically, the secret of ‘success at school’ of the minority of students is either the rare genius of a child or the loving and disciplined parental support that children get at home.