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Gone are the days when hard work, sincerity and a simplistic way of life could garner you the title of a successful individual. If you aren’t minting money or winning accolades for your work or developing a significant level of recognition for your accomplishments, you are considered to be living an average life. Don’t agree with me? Check out the newspapers, glance through magazines or log in to social media. Who gets written about? The Box-office ringer or the struggling actor who can actually act? The company director who is raking in the moolah or the NGO working within a limited budget to make a difference? I agree that there are certain exceptions. But, we all like success.
In fact, we all like to believe we will achieve success, but very often our own beliefs limit us. These beliefs are sometimes rooted in our childhood, our self-worth and even our immediate circle – our family and close friends. When we were younger, we were praised for many reasons, our values, our nature, our achievements in education and sports etc. But things have changed drastically in the last few decades. Only accomplishments seem to speak volumes, nothing else. However, is there a direct correlation between academic achievements and success in career? Not really! Then why is it that we put immense pressure on our children to perform well, academically, right from their nascent years?
Let’s imagine a scenario. A child has a decent understanding of a topic, is able to explain related concepts and can put down his/her thoughts on paper with ease using his/her words. A few decades ago, this child would have been considered ‘bright’. Today, this child would be expected to use the same words as the textbook while explaining the topic and if the required keywords were not found, the child would be graded averagely. Therefore, the message the child receives is that it’s not good enough to understand, but, a photographic memory would be a great asset in order to reproduce answers word for word and ace grades!
In this scenario, any child would rate his/her-self based on the grades received and begin to believe that he/she is of average intelligence. We as parents also do our bit of adding to their stress by asking, ‘22 out of 30? Where did you lose those 8 marks?’ Unless these children are told that developing a good understanding of the subject is more important than the marks they are given, they will always believe that they aren’t up to the mark. They have to be told that each of them has some unique abilities and that they will discover their niche as they explore options including sports and extra-curricular activities.
Sadly, today, a very small percentage of children are considered ‘bright’. We are unknowingly churning out an ‘average’ generation - children who consider themselves just about okay. I remember believing I could be anything – an astronaut, a scientist, even a superhero with abilities I hadn’t discovered yet. (I still believe that, in fact, and I’m not in the least embarrassed to admit it!) But, the children I meet these days are not only mature for their age, but they also seem to know what they can and cannot achieve. Recently, I met a student who was convinced he couldn’t be a scientist.
Why, I asked? ‘Because, my marks in science are not good!’
‘Do you like the subject? Do you enjoy studying it and applying it?’ I asked him.
‘Yes, I like science. I even do experiments at home. But, my mother says I am wasting time as I should be learning the answers instead.’
What a sad reality, I thought to myself after he left. I’m guilty of doing much the same when my son tries mixing random substances to see what it produces and how it is different from what he started out with. Essentially, I’m diminishing his creativity and expecting him to conform to a standard. But, who has created this warped standard? And, how do we know these standards are helping students and not demotivating them?
When I read the newspapers and check the scores our children are supposed to aim for, in order to get into ‘good’ colleges, I wonder if we aren’t demoralizing children by setting such high benchmarks. In all fairness, how many children can be expected to score 99 percent? What happens to the others? Do their efforts amount to nothing? Do their achievements have no value? Will they not be successful individuals? The answer to the last question is quite simple. ‘NO’, unless they believe they are ‘NOT’ average.
Their teachers have no choice but to follow the grading system. Even if they have certain reservations, they are programmed to believe in our education system. Our children’s peers will always believe what the majority says. The ones who do well will be recognized and the ones who don’t make the cut for the first three prizes will vanish into the crowd. As though, in some strange way, number four no longer bears any significance in the number system.
So, that leaves us. And, as parents, the responsibility to make our children believe in their abilities is ours and ours alone. So, let’s not churn out an average generation. Let's help them set realistic goals for themselves and work towards achieving them. Let them not lose sight of morals and values in that process. Let’s give them the confidence they need, to work harder and smarter for what they want. Let’s not let them fade into the background as part of a statistic. Let’s encourage them to believe in themselves and aspire to be something more.