When hubby and I first talked about the children’s education, we agreed that the focus should be more than simply academics. We all know that it takes more than a report card with straight A’s to be successful in life. And yet, when parents get together to talk about schools and education, there appears to be such a strong focus on academics that you could be forgiven for thinking that nothing else matters.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-academics. Heck! I’m Chinese. I was raised to revere academia, brain power and intellectuals. But there are times when talking to other parents makes me wonder if I should be more concerned about my sons’ academics (yes, it’s the competitive, Type A personality within me emerging). And then I ask myself: what do you want – academics or future success? Does academics = future success? When I look at the movers and the shakers in the world out there, the answer is a resounding “no”.
And if that’s the case, then why are we all so hung up on academics? Is it because we have become such a results-oriented culture that we need to have some piece of paper telling us that our children are on track? It reminds me of my MNC days where the bosses were always demanding our sales reports so they could report to their bosses that their department was on track to hit the targets for the year.
But what do you really know from a piece of paper with a string of A’s on it? I read an article once that talked about the information retention in students cramming for exams and this was what was said:
“With many students, it’s not like they can’t remember the material” when they move to a more advanced class, said Henry L. Roediger III, a psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis. “It’s like they’ve never seen it before.”
That means I could swot for an exam, get an A for it and not be able to utter one relevant point that I learned from it a couple of months later. So what does my report card of straight A’s prove? Absolutely nothing. So rather than focus on what the school is teaching, perhaps we should be more concerned about how the school is teaching it. Are the students engaged in their lessons? Are they interested in the subject matter they are studying? If the answer is “no” for both of these, you can bet that they’ll be swotting to get past their exams, in which case, they might as well not bother attending school.
Which leads me to the next point… I want my children to learn how think for themselves and not to think what they were told to think. There is no point knowing a lot of things if you don’t know what to do with the information. With knowledge, there must be application. Think of Sherlock Holmes and his ability to deduce the most amazing facts through the observation of a few details, such as the following conclusion he made of Dr Watson in A Study in Scarlet:
“I knew you came from Afghanistan. From long habit the train of thoughts ran so swiftly through my mind that I arrived at the conclusion without being conscious of intermediate steps. There were such steps, however. The train of reasoning ran, “Here is a gentleman of a medical type, but with the air of a military man. Clearly an army doctor, then. He has just come from the tropics, for his face is dark, and that is not the natural tint of his skin, for his wrists are fair. He has undergone hardship and sickness, as his haggard face says clearly. His left arm has been injured. He holds it in a stiff and unnatural manner. Where in the tropics could an English army doctor have seen much hardship and got his arm wounded? Clearly in Afghanistan.” The whole train of thought did not occupy a second. I then remarked that you came from Afghanistan, and you were astonished.”
And if Edward de Bono is right – children also need to be taught how to think. We cannot assume they will naturally fall into it on their own. Is your child learning HOW to think at school or is he learning WHAT to think? It’s a fine line, but it makes a big difference.