My daughter is in K1 and very soon she will be in the primary school. I see that my friends and other parents around me are worried about the school, their child’s education, and the enrichment classes. There is some sort of rush in putting the kids to various classes like swimming, dancing, painting etc. and not only that, extra classes for maths, English, writing and what not.
Last few years, there has been a surge in students enrolling for enrichment classes as per ST poll. There could be few possible reasons for that:
1) Parents are generally working and they don’t have enough time to spend with their kids. Even if they have little time, they would want to have some fun rather than grilling them over studies.
2) Overall environment has become very competitive. Whether it’s getting into good schools, to getting into good colleges and then landing in well-paying jobs. Things are not easy and parents would want to make their kids understand that at an early age.
3) Teachers in school are rushing to complete the course in class. During our time, teachers were ready to work a little extra on weak students so that they can match up with other students. Now teachers rely on the extra classes to help students catch up on the course.
4) Availability of resources. In the past, parents and students didn’t have many choices and opportunities. Things have changed. There are enrichment centers at every nook and corner. The perception is, the more expensive it is, the better it is in quality. People view them essential as part of their kid’s learning and development. They work even harder to enroll their kids in these courses. And that means spending lesser time with the kids.
There are two distinct schools of thoughts around kids starting these enrichment programs at an early age –
One set of parents and this is a majority lot, are crazy after sending their kids to various enrichment programs. For them, the early the kids get into the grind, the better it is. The kids will have an edge over their peers as their progress could be faster through assisted learning. They are exposed to a lot of new techniques which other students may not have access to. (Though as per Today’s newspaper article, very few parents see any improvement through these classes but that is a separate debate). The kids stay busy while parents are in office. They are not looking for parents attention. For some parents, spending time at enrichment classes is better than spending time with the helper at home. And by any means, that is always a better option. Some parents have lots of money to throw behind their child’s education. So, sending kids to more expensive enrichment classes has become a status symbol. Most importantly, parents come with a mindset that they didn’t have the resources which they can give to their kids. Many parents never got a chance to learn swimming or tennis but now they can afford for their kids.
And then there is another set of parents (and that includes me) who still believe in old school thinking. I would rather spend more time with the kids myself than sending her to any enrichment program. For a 4-year-old girl, what is it that the enrichment center can teach that we cannot! When it comes to studies, extracurricular activities like painting, dancing, cooking etc. the toddlers can get first-hand training at home. And once he/she identifies her/his keen interest then she/he should be sent to more advanced learning. Until the age of 5, if kids should learn how to organize and arrange their toys and room. Help their moms in the kitchen, fold their clothes etc. That is a huge learning in itself. Parents don’t understand that inculcating these values from the start is important because that stays with them for life. In the culture of maids/helpers, children are so used to getting their work done by someone else.
Few toddlers are seen in the park these days because they have to go to classes in evening. Many studies have found that kids should play in the park every day for at least one hour. More and more kids are getting glasses at an early age because they are exposed to screens a lot or involved in indoor activities.
When kids start extra classes, they should be exposed to one class at a time. Let the child spend enough time to think and feel whether his/her mind and heart is into that game. It is totally understandable that parents would be keen to know their kids’ interests as early as possible. But that cannot be done by teaching kids -swimming, tennis, painting, dances, all at the same time. That may end up confusing the kids, leading him/her to not being interested in of these. Parents shouldn’t intervene too much in growth and development of their kids. Assisted development has never helped any normal child.
And at this point, I am reminded of the butterfly story which grows from egg to larva and then into the butterfly. Once scientist studying the hatching of egg noticed that the larva was struggling to come out of the half hatched eggs. He tried to move the egg shell so that the larva could come out easily. Few hours later he noticed that the larva died. The scientist couldn’t understand the reason of his death as he has created a perfect environment for the larva to grow into the butterfly. The main reason for larva’s death was because the scientist helped him come out of the shell. The larva was not strong yet and not ready to come out of the shell. And once he was exposed to the outside world that early, he couldn’t survive. The learning from this story is that nature has its own pace of growth and development. And one shouldn’t meddle much in that process.
Even though I follow the second school of thought, I cannot say which one is right or wrong. As parents, we are the best people to understand our children’s needs and work towards it. One shouldn’t be impacted by what others say and do. One thing is for sure- children learn best when they are with their parents. Because only their parents can provide the perfect blend of protection and freedom which is best for kids to thrive.
I am sure you may agree or disagree with above. Please feel free to express your views by dropping in the comment below.