December 21, 2016
Me and my family have an annual ritual that we never miss; attending our daughter’s annual fest. I have traveled all over India as I was in the Navy, and my daughter has attended many schools like Naval Children School Goa, Treamis Bangalore, St Xavier Bangalore, DPS Gurgaon and now GD Goenka, Delhi. This time the annual fest was for one of the best-known school franchise of this country called GD Goenka. While I was fascinated to see, the effort made by each child and cultural program performed by kids, there was something that bothered me a bit.
The Principal gave a brief eloquent speech before the event started. Out of all other standard but justified rhetoric reminding us why GD Goenka is one of the best, she also mentioned something that pushed me to write this article. She told all the parents that they should feel proud as every student of the school will be on stage, performing some act or the other. I am a father of two young children with a deep interest in their education and I have always encouraged my kids to do things their own way. I want them to have their own opinions, likes and dislikes. I want them to express their talents and shine. I don’t want to program them to act the way I want. Nor do I want them to get programmed by the schooling system. So, I felt a bit uneasy as I sat there and watched each child come on to the stage and perform. I noticed that many children who were on stage were very reluctant, not happy with what they were doing and wanted to just finish it. It was as if they have been pushed to do this.
Now one would argue that it’s great that every child is getting an opportunity. More importantly, parents like to see their kid performing and ultimately the parent is the customer here and hence his needs/interest are taken care of. But what I saw on stage was a major flaw being acted out in front of me. An event has many facets, conceptualizing, designing, decorating, acting and managing. All kids do not have interest in acting or singing, they rather would have done a wonderful job as decorators, creators or designers. But all were pushed to stage, as if there is nothing worth doing off stage.
To accommodate so many kids into the play (as every child was to be given chance), the same character was played by 5 to 10 kids, every new scene the character was enacted by some new kid. Not only did this result in reluctant kids being pushed into it, but for the kids who do have flare for acting, they were restricted to a very tiny role. Overall this resulted in a very mediocre performance, be it a play, song or dance. All parents ended up comparing the roles performed by all the kids, some even telling their kids that they looked very timid on stage. What I saw was disappointed faces as they did not get fair chance to show their best work. Including my daughter who thought she got very little role to perform.
When Kaurava and Pandava went to schools under Guru Dronacharya about 3500 BC, they all excelled in the field they liked. Arjuna was the best Archer, Bhim was the best Gadadhari, Yudhishthira was trained in religion, science, administration and became a master in using the spear and war chariot. Nakula mastered his skills in fencing and knife throwing. Sahadeva's core skill lay in the wielding of the sword. Similarly, Duryodahana was extremely skilled with the mace. In the final results, they all were the best and top of the class. No one was ahead or behind. They choose one skill where their talent was and mastered it. And that’s why they excelled.
Teachers play a big role here in helping the child realize his potential, no one know which skill is good for future as no knows the future itself. How do we know that all kids need to be on stage and that exposure is must? Is being an extrovert a better quality then being introvert? Navjot Sing Sidhu, the most talkative host today was one of the most shy and silent cricketer ever. But the day he liked doing hosting there was no looking back. He never had to prepare early at child stage to be an extrovert. He found a great reason to speak and hence became successful. He was not pushed on stage to talk; he went there because he wanted to talk. The bigger objectives is to make sure that the child can communicate and not push him into one way of communicating.
An ideal education system would never push every one into a specific stream, there is nothing which is more important than other. Art and music is as important as sports and science. If everyone was an actor in a movie, who would be the director? Who would be the costume designer? Who would be the script writer?
With this I’d like to say let kids do what they like best or what they feel most confident in, only then they will have a chance to excel. Help each child realize his potential and not push him into what you feel is going to be liked by parents. Every child does not need to be seen on stage, But each one would prepare for the bigger stage called the WORLD.