Is the education system failing our children?

School is increasingly becoming a place you have to unlearn from. Why?

By Kavita Srinivasan

Published: Thu 2 Jun 2022, 4:10 PM

In an extremely reputed and expensive school in Dubai, children watch TV during lunchtime as they eat. When asked why this was the case, the teachers mentioned they needed a break during mealtime. And so the children, young children, were placed in front of the screen. This is what schooling has come to.

With a tuition that amounts to more than Dhs70,000 a year should the teachers not be equipped to deal with children better than we would at home?

This school is frequently called ‘good’. On what premise is it ‘good’? Is it because it’s expensive or that it is international? Are the exam results good? Are the admission rates to top universities, high? Is this what our definition of a ‘good’ school boils down to? I know I am asking more questions than giving answers but this is the thing — parents have questions that are unanswered as we try to find our children places of learning that will guarantee them a happy life.

Now here is the most confusing question of all: what makes a child happy? If the aim of schooling is a happy and fulfilled life, what are schools doing to promote that? I am not the wisest person in the world but I do know that after decades of chasing accolades and excelling academically and in my career, I felt empty. Bereft. Lonely. Miserable and unwilling to be myself. I am the picture of academic excellence, having attending some of the world’s ‘best’ schools, then why did I wake up when I turned 40 and feel empty?

I never learned to be myself. Be with myself. Just be. I never learned to access my emotions. I never learned the meaning of connection, of exploring the banal annals of my mind and heart, wandering in the magical unknown that my imagination revels in. I am only now discovering these skills. Only now.

Like most people I know, I listened to society’s definition of what a ‘good’ life should look like as opposed to looking within. Within — a place I never ventured, busy as I was globetrotting to discover places outside of myself. If only I had been handed a compass to go inward, instead of seeking validation on the outside.

I am ranting, I know. There is so much to be said about how inadequately mainstream education prepares us for life. My son is in a Waldorf Steiner school now where the emotional world, the imagination, the wonder of being with you precedes every other achievement. He came home the other day and told me he does not want to watch his allotted 30 minutes of TV time. He would much rather play. This feels right.

Parenting leaves us at a loss. And so I am lost. I do not have all the right answers but I do have questions that you should be asking the schools your children go to.

• Do they watch screens during the day?

• What are you doing to promote mindfulness?

• How much play is there? (Play is extraordinarily important for the imagination and learning)

• How much do you encourage competition? (Competitiveness is damaging. Let your child learn without comparison)

• Do you have punishments and rewards? Timeouts? (Anything that shames is damaging)

• How much are the children bored? (Constant stimulating activity actually impairs learning. We need space to create, think and be)

This is a beginning. When we blindly accept what schools do, we are doing ourselves a disservice. Always be unafraid of the system. It is nothing but a system; a business that may not always have your children’s best interests at heart. You are right to question anything and everything. This is your child’s life.

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