“Hey, what marks did your daughter score in science?” some mom asked me on the result day.
“I don’t remember exactly, since they have all sorts of UTs, Internal Assessment and Term Exams among other things. But she seems to have done reasonably well.” I quipped lightheartedly. Anything above 85% is reasonably well for me. And I know that my daughter had understood the concepts clearly, though she did not present them in the perfect language the teacher expected. But I thought that is not such a big deal and she will learn this art gradually as she grows up.”
The mom persisted breathlessly, “My son scored around 92 (out of 100) in Science and I am very disappointed with his marks. I was expecting full marks. I am going right away to the teacher to talk (read as argue) about this.”
I looked at her son; He seemed to shuffle from one leg to another with a bored expression. And then I looked back at the mother who was all charged up. I compassionately touched her arm and told her to just let it go, “The marks do not matter much. I have heard that your boy is quite smart and he answers a lot in the class. A few marks here and there won’t matter.”
From the corner of my eyes, I could see a hit of smile on that boy’s face. The mother took a stiff posture, brushed off my hand and looked straight into my eyes and said, “Yes, it does matter.”And she walked away with her son. The saddest part was that, the mother missed the smile on her son’s face (at my compliment) and also how soon it got shadowed with a sense of dejection.
This small incident made me ponder at the increased significance we parents have attached to the exams and the marks. ‘Work hard and leave the results to God’ – Isn’t that what Bhagwad Gita teaches us? But what we as parents tell our kids- Focus on marks. I want you to score not less than 90%. Or study hard so that you can score more than your friend this time. You think you are instilling the spirit of competition in your child? No!
You are making him a performance dependent individual.
If your child is intelligent, he would obviously know how to score even without knowing the subject well. Believe me! I have enough experience of that. It’s no rocket science. Our examination system is so flawed that it just has checks for the ‘memory chip’ inside our brain and not much to assess the ‘grey cells’. It just takes a while to figure out how the marks system work and then you train your brain to just go through bits and pieces of the lesson. But is that what you want? To be specific, I am talking just about the primary and middle grade school and not the competitive exams.
First and foremost, please drop this paranoia of grades and marks. It’s simply ridiculous! How are these marks helping the kids apart from just raising an iota of confidence in them?
That too is not healthy. Every child is born confident. And then a reverse journey of biases in the performance dependent environment breaks the layers of confidence. And the child is then told to cover up his inadequacy with a cloak of pseudo-confidence that is in turn dependent on his performance.
Now tell me, isn’t that a lopsided way of living?
Listen to your heart. You have given birth to your child and seen him from the moment he breathed his first. You have helped him take the first step, taught him the first word. You have cried and laughed with him.
Do you really need the school report card to tell you what your child is talented at or lacking in?
Your child even as a toddler can perceive your expectations and anxiety for good performance. And that, believe me, is extremely de-motivating for a child. He/she stops enjoying the thrill of learning, and simply focuses all the energy in pleasing you, his parents.
Because, he looks up to you for nourishing his confidence.
You look up to the report card for the answers!
Learning is a very fulfilling process. Learning knows no age, no boundaries. So, please do not bind yourself or your child to these scores. Do not use grades as tattoos, to either hide them under their sleeves, if the grades are less, or flaunt them on their forehead when they are outstanding.
Focus on the learning, not on the result.
- Teach your child how to enjoy his studies
- Teach your child to study regularly
- Teach your child to organise his studies
- Teach your child to follow a disciplined time-table
- Teach your child to imbibe what he learnt
- Teach your child to study smart
- Teach your child to assess his own performance
- Teach your child to focus on concept
- Teach your child to embrace new knowledge
- Teach your child to do his/her best, and be prepared for worst
- Teach your child to accept good grades humbly, and bad grades gracefully
Have you as a parent taught your child these things? Think about it. You are raising a human, a budding adult and not an encyclopaedia or an unfeeling machine. Your child is not a Google App that will answer correctly what all has been fed into his brain!
Guide your child, but don’t make him an extension of your desires.
Let me share a few insightful lines by Kahlil Gibran as my ending note:
“Your children are not your children
They come through you but not from you
And though they are with you
Yet they belong not to you.”