education: some questions and answers(!)

I am not the educator or even the educated type. My spouse defintely is.

We stay in a delightfully absolute boondocks near Bangalore, so get only occasional visitors. Many a time, however and of late, these visitors happen to be couples who are in a dilemma (um, more like a pentalemma or more)  about what school to choose for their wards; frequently we would be asked questions about education, and what parents should do to their children so that their children turn out fine, or what schools we can recommend, or how do we work with children, whatever. Luckily for them, my lack of credentials does not make me shy away from irresponsibly answering questions, of course! This, in spite of the exasparated and repeated interventions from my spouse, asking me to be sensible & sensitive…

Okay, mostly the questions from these folks are the same (and follow the same pattern) but they are all couched in polite language and much euphemism; but, yours truly being a guy from a small town, likes the barebones, unpolished & unadulterated essence of such communication and hence the way of recording of questions that are asked and the way they ar answered (in this write-up) may appear as if they are raw, but believe me, they are actually raw.

I have rather painstakingly(!)  recorded all the actually-meant-questions and our actually-tempted-to-say-answers , from all the conversations and talkathons we have had (but frankly, would have preferred NOT to have had them in the first place) – so that if someone wants to visit or talk to us about schools, education etc, we will merely point them over to this page and spare us the tragic agony of polite conversational nonsense, that would otherwise follow…

However, the ‘Kanti Sweets’ boxes by which we would become richer (& fatter), with every such visit of the Mrs and Mr Clueless,  may please be couriered to us. We even accept cash.

Hope you don’t enjoy the following as much as we didn’t enjoy them…

Is Nammashaale good? Or Anveshana? Is Prakriya good? Or NPS? Or Vidyaniketan Or Vidyashilp Or Bishop Cotton?? What about Royal Concorde? Macaulay English School? Is our local, homegrown Montessori school good enough?

The operative answer should be: Are you good enough for your child? May be you should try to change your child’s parents to some folks better?

Frankly, it all depends on what your views on education are. What? You don’t have an opinion at all? ^%$#@*(!

To help you decide, here are some photos of the Macaulay school and  one of its typical students – and  a writeup. Enjoy.

What are the advantages and drawbacks of mainstream and alternative schools?

There are no mainstream schools. There are no alternative schools. There are only good and bad schools. Like there are good and bad parents, of course YOU know what I mean?

Each school has a vision (that may or may not be openly articulated) based on the background and capacity of the founding group – and then there is this question of effective implementation of their vision. If you agree with both of them, you go ahead.

The vision of the school and you parents should have a significant number of commonalities. If not, cognitive dissonance will result, and your poor child will suffer – the only (and costly) mistake that the child committed would have been that – it was born of you

For example if you are a go-getter (nothing wrong with that) and believe in that cute philosophy of dog-eat-dog, then your child should go to an appropriate school so that the great family tradition and traits get passed on…

I think, professionalism and integrity are the ones that would separate good schools from bad schools – wheter or not they are Montessori or Waldorf or KFI or DPS or our friendly neighhourhood ‘International’ schools (that come in all shapes and sizes and number of swimming pools)…

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the big, branded schools?

There are quite a few advantages; for example, one can completely outsource the education of their wards to these factory model schools. These schools have a minimum standard / quality that they would turn out, irrexpective of the sensibilities of the child and the delightful variations in in each child.

The children of these schools are like High Yield varieties/cultivars with features like – uniformity, minimum standards (whatever that means), a lot of  additional inputs and reinforcement needed. These children would eventually become the fodder for the economy.

Some of these children would even tragically end up in the elite schools too (though they may have wanted to do something else), thus proving that the ‘system beating‘  techniques are likely to be well entrenched in them. This is becoming an important life skill, next only to the ability to use an iPod or a Sony PSP.

In fact I know of many such factory schools, where the children are prepared for nothing else or better than competitive exams like IIT JEE and stuff.

Actually there are no disadvantages to this mode. Schools and ‘Tuition centres’ would take care of everything about academics; if this is not sufficient enough, the so called peer-pressure will make the children perform like a troop of monkeys, but at least monkeys have fun. Summer camps would take care of  the children duting holidays. Lay’s chips would take care of the pot belly. Malls will take care of the much needed walking. Mediated entertainment will be their primary mode of relaxation. Zombiedom is Nirvana, what else.

Parents can have all the fun. Outsourcing will set the parents free. Every year the parents can bribe the children with visits to say, Pattaya kind of touristy places, if need be – and nothing else needs to be done but for paying fees at various places and ferrying the children up and down.

All else will lumber along in delirium.

What are advantages and disadvantages of a small school?

In a small school, I think there is a better chance of the founders’ vision getting translated into action. Another advantage would be that it is possible to make meaningful interventions in school. Of course, the culture and values propagation, and ability to respond to changes are likely to be much more coherent & resilient than in a big school with its ossified processes and all.

It is possible to do a self evaluation on the strengths (going to parties and more parties, or going ‘shopping’ incessantly are unfortunately not considered, sorry) of parents and weaknesses – and one can judiciously choose schools that would offset and complement what one can do at home, with children. This is a definite plus point in small schools, with their own cute strengths and therefore a few lacunae. Children may get the best of everything, this way. But, if the parents are also part of the HYV (hopefully NOT HIV) crop, then their key strength would be ‘career climbing,’ which would have very little relevance to a child.

The flipside would be that there will always be funds crunches (it is the economy, brilliant) – sometimes really crippling – but it is fun to surmount these issues. Another is about the aspect of not being a ‘well known brand.’ But, this vexatious question is handled separately, further down.

The children here could be compared to Open Pollinated seeds/cultivars and hence form a delightfully diverse species collection, very colourful and full of life and possibilities; very self reliant and rugged too.

God (if she exists) knows we need more such Open Pollinated seeds to preserve our rich dirversity. Small schools also invariably have something called character. But this notion probably is old fashioned.

How can my child ever learn the important social & life skills such as bullying, settling down in a pecking order, getting stuck in FaceBook, glueing oneself to toys (such as personal DVD players, iPods, Sony PSPs, Plasma and high defintion TVs), hanging around in malls etc, if they don’t study in branded schools?

I understand your dilemma. You want to pass on the valuable and traditional social skills in the family, to the next generation. What a laudable goal! I really like your concern that – how much less violence will be on the streets, how much safe it will be for others, if your children stayed inside your homes,  glued to their gizmos. My eyes have actually become glassy, where is that darn tissue when I need it.

I agree that the some errant children are getting distracted (all this can be blamed on their incorrigible tendency to get fresh air and sunshine) and are actually doing things and are happy. How can they! I am still investigating what’s wrong with them. Fortunately for my research, they are in a minority. Thank you.

How can I NOT proudly refer to my children as Silkians as the famous ‘Rook Silk’ students are referred to, in their afterlife, I mean, after they complete schooling?

You exactly caught-on to my dilemma too. But I think we can continue to call and refer to our children by their given names. I know it is a difficult & distasteful choice, as opposed to the cult choice – but we know we have the can-do mentality.

Don’t you know that many students from IdIoT are called and idolized as IdIoTians? Won’t our chests brim over, thereby bursting our upper-inner garments at the seams, if our children also join such elite schools?

Please note that when children join such elite schools, they pass out of them. This is a very well and internationally known syndrome called passing-out-charade.

Also remember, they immediately go abroad and never come back, which I think is a blessing. The advantage is that they don’t wreck havoc here in India, what with their paper degrees. The flipside of these jobless folks, has actually three main components.

1. They send (mostly unearned) dollars back, and send up the inflation rates in India.

2. They keep uploading photo albums on picasa or yahoo-photos every hour – and send mails to you urging you to see them, distracting you to bored-death or worse still, goading you to commit suicide.

3. They send you invitations to make you join FaceBook, Yaari, Orkut, LinkedIn etc etc – every week from a new social nutworking site – and keep sending reminders every week in respect of all the other 268 previous invites. In the dark depths of the IP network, nobody can hear you scream.

But, but… What about the BRAND?

What about the brand? You see, if you subject your children to unnecessary branding, then that is a crime punishable under Indian Penal Code. Honest. Instead, please call it tattooing. Aamir Khan likes it. Your children will like it too. When their bodies are filled with tattoos, then you don’t have to invest on clothes at all for your children. They will look naturally beautiful.

What do I do, my neighbour’s son Pappu always gets higher marks than my son Laalu. They both go to the same school, we fathers work in the same IT company. Our wives are both Interior Decorators.

What do you do? If I were in your position, I would swap the children. Or swap the fathers, so that Pappu gets the same fate as your sonny boy Laalu. May be the children belong to different zodiacal signs? May be Pappu is a Genetically Modified organism?
(I suggest that you look for reasons as far away as possible from yourself; believe me, this attitude helps, because you can never get the real reasons elsewhere)

What can I do to help my child learn fast, more, a lot and win medals??

I know you splendid parents very well and your incredible capabilities and therefore – KEEP OFF the child. He will then positively become a good learner, faster learner and a lotter learner. He may even be a muddle winner, as the state of the education is like that only.

My child is always lazy and sleeps too much, till 7.30AM everyday. She does not finish her homework on time. My neighbour’s daugther does not have these problems. That girl is always cheerful. What do I do.

I suggest that at least one day a month, you should let the child be… The child should be free of the Abacus, Painting, Singing (Hindustani & Karnatic – two classes per week), Dancing (Bharathanatyam, Kathak, Ballet, Bombay butt-wiggle, Odissi – only one class per week), Swimming, Pottery, Badminton, Chess, Meditation, Skating, Blading, Tennis, Squash, Violin, Guitar, Piano (only Cambridge certification), Veena, Drums etc etc, all conducted in different places – kind of classes – at least for one day.

May be she can then sleep for full 8 hours, one day a month? I think this easing of one day would go a long way towards reducing the probablity of her becoming a serial killer, by say 1%.

If you continue to make her class-surf like this, she will become a Naxalite. She will annihilate all Class Enemies, starting from you. Grrr.

Another way to solve the issue is to address and confront the neighbour kid, to check her weird behaviour. Keep scowling at her, make faces at her. She will eventually become sullen, at least towards you.

My son is lying a lot, how can I solve this vexatious issue! 😦

Next time around when your hapless boss rings you up, dont ask your son to pick up the mobile phone and say things like ‘my daddy is in the bathroom’ or ‘my daddy has gone out, he forgot to take his mobile.’

My son watches a lot of TV. He does not do anything else at home. He just sits and watches TV. What do I do, Oh what do I do…

First, you get up from your couche. Shed all the manly responsibilities of the morning – such as reading newspapers, commenting on politics, checking stock prices,  checking mails etc -and You start helping around in the kitchen. Sell your TV. Or junk it. The world did manage to work before the advent of TV, yeah?

My daughter is not getting sufficient physical exercise. at all. All she wants to do is to laze around. What do we do.

Resolve to be able to see your toetips in the standing position, without the intervention of the mighty curious midreef of yours, at least in the next year. You set an example of daily physical fitness regimen. All else will fall in place.

When I compare my son’s scorecard with that of my colleague’s son, I feel inferior. How do I address this.

I understand and agree with your feelings. I think you ARE inferior. Go get a life.

I think your wife should loudly start complaining about your performance in bed, while comparing your performance with that of, say your neighbour.

Seriously, you should suffer a major Performance Reprisal at your office.

Go away, or else I  will eat you up live.

——— end ———

This is only the first instalment, and depending on popular demand, if I dont go in to hiding, we may have a few more. Ha Ha.

4th April 2009 update: Part 2 of this rant here:

All parts of this series of ‘essays’ uptil the current one are here:

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • Reshma  On March 27, 2009 at 11:27 am

    a few additional questions, that I was actually asked by parents of kids attending the HYV or IB(I only be, not we-be) schools..

    1. How do they test the child?
    2. Is this school only for special needs students?
    3. How many classrooms? How does the teacher teach kids from 6 to 8-9 year olds in one classroom?
    and then comes this…
    4. (thinking..something must be wrong…) and asking – why only such few kids in the school? Is it more like a play school?

  • mahesh  On March 28, 2009 at 1:34 am

    That was quite a rant. i have had my share of “What’s-the-world-coming-to” moments and now finally with an assumed maturity, insight and wisdom I have taken on to let my children just be. I believe the best you can do to your child is to get out of the way. Many times I catch myself dictating my judgment based on some moralistic pedestal I choose to stand on and if ever my children took them seriously they would surely be left retarded for life. The effortless ease with which a child can narrate, in an incident, ‘what happened’ without the psychedelic stories we as adults add up to it, is the closest you can come to seeing a whole and complete human. So like i said, just let the child be.

  • hema  On March 31, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    i am learning to see ‘what’s so’ about life and every time i think i am there i have not arrived yet. It takes all kinds like they say and there is always ‘perception’…yep .. like ramjee says this could run into another whole page of the blog..or a blog itself..every single (frustrating)question has been a concern of many parents….so what?

  • abc  On December 15, 2011 at 6:24 am

    Eye opener!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: