Sunday, October 25, 2009

What is important to you?

My daughter turns two and half next month. Time to start her Montessori. So started my second round of school hunting in the past one year.

First one was on the first floor of a house straight out of an interior design magazine. Split level floors, curios from all over the world, and the lady straight out of a fashion magazine. She gave me a disdainful look over. Thinking of how I look like even on my best days, I couldn't blame her. She was trained in the US of A, taught in montessories there, and had been working in one of Bangalore's upmarket schools for 4 years when the entrepreneurship bug caught her. She explained everything in her yankee accent and asked whether my daughter could follow English. We strictly speak our mother toungue at home, the logic is kids will anyway learn English at school. I said, "She can understand." Another one of those looks.

The classroom itself was again out of a book. All the accessories brand new, placed in order, and all imported, stressed the madam. There were 4-5 kids sitting around all beween 2.5 and 4 and they were writing in their notebooks!! I could not but compare this to the kindergarten class which my son went to in Kochi. The teacher did not force him to do anything in the first term because he used to get upset when she told him anything. That teacher took such good care of him during the first two months without even any of us knowing that after the first few months he just blossomed into someone very confident and thoughtful.

Next school I visited also gave me almost the same message. Teach kids as much as possible so that they are ready for their all important interview next year.

When we moved to Bangalore, the common comment from everyone was kids will get a good education. After almost a year I am not so sure anymore. There maybe the so called elite schools where this maybe true. But getting an admission there is tougher than a JEE or CAT and even more expensive. I know a school where they interviewed the kid for three hours for admission to second standard!! A colleague of mine who also got transferred along with is also of the same opinion. Kochi schools were so much better. The teachers knew their students so well and the parents were welcome to approach them anytime.

Our experience with our son is also not too different. In the first three months his class teacher changed three times, we do not know about the other subjects. First open house we went to half the teachers didn't even know him. I am sure there are many other schools which are run in a much better way, if someone can let me know how to get admission to one of those, I will be eternally grateful to you.

I may be biased in my thinking, it maybe a hangover from my upbringing, but from what I have seen and heard in the past few years, I still feel convent schools or those run by priests are the best. They may not have the best of facilities like horse riding or swimming or what not, but the values they instill, the quality of teaching that is a given just cannot be compared.

A parent told me that she is sending her son to a school known for the 'attitude' of the kids, but she is ok with it, since her son will turn out to be confident and sure about himself! Which set me thinking, isn't it us who has turned schooling into what it is today? In our quest for giving the best to our kids are we forgetting the basic things in life? Aren't we going for materialistic achievemnets in place of basic courtesies in life? Is knowing how to ride a horse or shooting a perfect ace on the tennis court more important that learning to treat others fairly without prejudice and getting to know that success and failure are just two sides of the same coin?


  1. "Is knowing how to ride a horse or shooting a perfect ace on the tennis court more important that learning to treat others fairly without prejudice and getting to know that success and failure are just two sides of the same coin?"

    Hear, hear.....tht way I agree convent schools definitely are lesser of the 2 evils;-P

    U knw schools here in Dubai dont even allow u to meet the teacher in person....u get somebody called an academic superviser who will be a go-between u & the class teacher. Just imagine;-/

    Good luck with the school hunting...

  2. "We strictly speak our mother toungue at home, the logic is kids will anyway learn English at school."

    I so agree with this logic. I followed this same logic with my first but with the 2nd it went all haywire:-(

  3. I agree with just about everything you said. Believe me, the quest for the perfect or even a really good school never ends. It finally turns out to be a choice of what you consider the lesser evil.
    As for the trend to cram in as much as possible, I'm beginning to suspect that we parents are just as much to blame for putting that pressure on the school. You know, "the interviews are next week and my daughter doesnt know ..., ... or ... What have you been teaching her all this time?" Or it could be something as commercial as "send your kid to ... School. More kids from there were admitted into the A-list schools last year". Its such a sad circle and the kids suffer because of it. I wish I was smart enough to homeschool my kids.

  4. Being stdied in a convent school for 9 years I do agree with you.
    Fortunatily my second nephew is lucky enough to get a admission in a good school over here(that smart ass answered names of few vegetable and got through among 800 students).There in Pre KG , there is no exam and we didn't have to teach anything.At present he is in 1st standard and we are really pleased with there teaching methods(he used study everything in the school itself and come).And we are also allowed to meet teachers in person at the allowed time.
    ride a horse or shooting a perfect ace on the tennis court.. ...i echo your thoughts ........At the end of the day how they shine in all fields depends on the capablity and smartness of kids

    @ English logic ----true...after all they are fast learners.

  5. Reading these stories get me scared of the road ahead for our kids. In many parts of india, esp kerala and south india, the PARENTS and the greedy SCHOOLS are playing a major role in accelerating and pushing the compulsive education this far. Even when I was in high school, I remember, how some of the schools were pushing the students into forced areas of career: engg and medicine. When I read your article, I understand that this trend begins much much earlier...

    But I am happy that there are some schools and people who think different. Hope such avenues flourish in our country...

  6. Hi Bindu,
    Recently I read an article in Vanitha.When I read your post that came to my mind.I am not remembering the exact context but it is the view of Architect G Shankar of Habitat technology group Trivandrum about education of his son, Siddarth.Iremember few lines of what I read.They never imposed anything on him.He refused to study Maths in 8 th standard.What impressed me most is that, they told they want him to be a good human being rather than an expert.He entered into an abroad university later with scholarshipin Arts.Sorry, I am not remembering the whole details of the article, though.I wish you come across that edition of Vanitha.A right perspective towards educating children.

    I felt all your concerns in the last paragraph is genuine and what you think is exremely right and it ia not an attitude school that frames a kid. As a parent your views plays a major part in how your kid is going to be as a person.

  7. Could not agree better with you. Just think about the three of us. All of us went to ordinary schools that had no "airs" (my school still doesnt have any!) and to think that we are the best at work! It definitely is the way our teachers mould us into nice human beings that really matter. Everything else will come on its own...Good luck with school hunting though :-)

  8. Looks like education is all about speaking English and getting an 'attitude'.

  9. @ Nancy - they don't allow you to meet the teachers? Guess I should start counting my blessings instead of cribbing :-)

    @ Sunitha - Totally agree with you. Parents are more to blame for the current scene. As for home schooling, my thoughts are exactly the same. Wish I was smart, patient and brave enough to do it :-)

    @ Anish - I know what you mean. Kochi schools where my son went to were similar. That's why I am so irritated

    @ Rocksea - The race begins much earlier now. There are some silver linings here and there. I think Mary Roy deserves a special mention. Though much has been said against her school being elitist and so on, she stands by what she believes in. Did you know that her school does not teach English till 2nd standard?

    @ TME - Yes I read that article in Vanitha. Even though I would love to do the same with my kids not sure whether I am brave enough for that. A few years back, there was another article about a family in the US who home schools their six or seven kids and I was like wow!!

    @ Sreeram - More than teachers I think it is the parents who are to be blamed or congratulated. I guess people like us were lucky enough to get parents who didn't bother too much as long as we were doing fairly well, but was very strict about the values they instilled in us.

    @ Bindhu - Sadly so

  10. You know, everytime I read a post like this,it makes me thank my stars that we are in the UK now - but we will face it all when we move back.

    The way they initaited my daughter into the nursery was wonderful. Two teachers came home, explained everything they do and they even took down details like what she calls me and her dad and what festivals we celebrate - you know I was amazed!

    And in India, they look down on the fact that we prefer to speak to the children in our mother tongues? I speak to my daughter mostly in Malayalam - but she responds only in English :( English, they will definitely pick up - mother tongue is lore likely to be neglected..

    'Is knowing how to ride a horse or shooting a perfect ace on the tennis court more important that learning to treat others fairly without prejudice and getting to know that success and failure are just two sides of the same coin' - So true! I wish the schools and some parents understood this too..