“Which profession deserves the highest salary and why?” This was the question asked to Manushi Chillar who became Miss World 2017, one of the 6 Indians who have achieved this feat so far. Being a teacher, and especially in a country where the teaching profession is still struggling to regain its lost glory, I was expecting she would say the professions is “Teaching”. But to my surprise which turned into awe soon, her answer was “the profession of the Mother”. Her answer immediately took me to the session which we conducted the other day where a mother was in tears explaining how all her efforts to improve the academic performance of her son have yielded no success. This working mother of a fourteen-year-old has gone through a rough phase in her past life and is really concerned about the future of her child. The desperate appeals of a mother gave me and my colleagues a strong jolt and we have been pondering on the possible methods of alleviating her pain.Since last four years I have been meeting parents and every one has some or the other grievances related to the academics of their children.
In this piece I am trying to collate all such pain points which we are working on.
a) Attention Span: Its a common complaint of all the parents that their children are having very low attention span. ‘Low’ can be quantised to 10-15 minutes and no more. Due to this, they are not really able to achieve reasonable amount of conceptual clarity in the subjects they study.
b) Inconsistency: Kids are not able to maintain a regime of self-study on a regular basis. The number of hours go up exponentially as the exams near. This leads to excessive load and panic attacks during the exams.
c) Distractions: The present day teenagers have access to all sorts of electronic gadgets – cell phones, tablet PCs, gaming consoles. To add to this they are now exposed to the internet and hence its most popular product – the social media. The Instagram generation is more into selfies than breaking open an old transistor set and playing with its speaker’s magnets.
d) The Missing Rigour Element: Kids are not getting the taste of rigour needed to achieve milestones in life. This is leading to taking either the short cuts to achieve something or the “escape route” the moment road blocks are encountered.
It would be too naive not to acknowledge that these pain points were totally missing when previous generations were at the same age. But, the scale of the pain points has certainly been enhanced significantly over generations.
After having interviewed several parents I have identified some trends which I am sharing here under:
a) The missing fire: The above mentioned pain points are at higher levels if the child belongs to a upper middle or upper classes based on economic parameters. Parents who have been successful in attaining upwards social ability are encountering these pain points more than those who are in lower middle and lower classes. The level of affluence of parents gives some kind of reassurance to the children that they are in safe hands and really do not need to bother much about achieving anything in life. Secondly, getting access to all kinds of resources without really putting much of sweat in it is also driving away the need to put rigour for achieving anything. In contrast to this, modern day parents have achieved everything mostly by acquiring higher education and years of hard work. This creates a huge gap in the approaches taken by the parents and their children leading to a huge gap in expectations of the senior generation from that of the junior.
b) Alice in wonderland: The current day education system also is not helping in connecting them to the real world. We see an elitist element in the events they participate in as well. We have been seeing children participating in Model United Nations very actively, but rarely do they know that there is something called “Zilla Parishad” or a “Gram Panchayat” also where representatives of local people engage in debates to tackle problems more relevant to their lives than that of the entire globe. This gives them a false impression about their world and doesn’t expose them to the ruthless world outside the cosy ambiences of their gated communities or their schools.
c) Missing peace at home: It is also being observed that those households where the level of dissonance amongst parents is higher – domestic violence, separated parents, prolonged illness of in-laws – the children from those households tend to be more rebellious towards anything and everything they find threatening their existence – including performance in academics.
d) The outsourced parenting: If you look at the age group of parents who have teenage children today, then these are the people who were the first beneficiaries of Indian economy opening up to the world. These parents were entering their job lives when Indian economy started scaling up new heights. Then came the dot-com boom when the same set of people got another great push in terms of their economic status. As a result they became used to more rewards at the expense of higher productivity. This led to long hours of work, onsite visits and more traveling. This led further to significant drop in time spent by parents on their children. To add to this, the concept of Double – Income (husband and wife both working) also led to reduction in the invaluable time mothers used to spend with their children. This, ultimately, led to behavioural changes which is being manifested as weak value-system present in children. Parents then started looking out for someone who could take care ( especially in academics) of their children. The rising number of creches, day-cares and pre-schools are evidences of this. Burgeoning number of after school programs – tuitions, sports classes, music, arts classes etc are other evidences of outsourced parenting.
These trends are not exhaustive and huge volume of literature could be generated on this topic. Our focus is on how to come up with innovative solutions to tackle these pain points and address the above mentioned trends. And before that, we need to first validate these trends with a bigger sample size and experts opinion on the same. More in next piece…