Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child?
A few days back there was a news item in the paper about how Indian children ranked second last in the world in a test of Science, Math and English.
While the accuracy of statistical studies can always be questioned, but second last? For a nation that can not stop patting its back for its high-quality theoretical knowledge, where education is valued above everything else, how did things come to this?
The first thought that came to my mind was – “Boy, looks like Indian parents have finally stopped beating their kids.” Which might be where the problem started.
Back in the good old days, if you were a good child your parents rewarded you with a Five star chocolate. Maybe ice-cream. Perhaps a movie outing if you did something really special, like top the entire batch in school, three years in a row. Bad performance wasnt just not rewarded, but there were serious consequences. In Russell Peters’ immortal words, somebody got hurt a real bad every-time you got less than 90% in Math.
Moms were known to turn into tigresses and kids would pee their pants. It was nasty. But it worked.
And then we decided to get civilized.
No more competition, because it can emotionally scar the child. No more scolding them. FIRs to be filed if a teacher dares raise her voice on a child. No more marks. Only grades. This was socialism applied to education. Since no one could fail, the government need not worry about pass percentages anymore. Since students couldn’t fail, they could, well, pursue other interests.
Meanwhile, the Chinese kept beating their kids to bring out the best in them. Their kids grew up to be famous scientists, mathematicians, gymnasts, swimmers, etc. They grew up battered, but they were the best at what they did.
As this Chinese mom wrote, her daughter was not allowed to get grades below A in any subject, or “not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama.” That’s the sort of dedication it takes. If the child cracks, so be it. But at least most of them will grow up smart.
We, our kids went in the other direction. Mobile phones. Drinking. Sexual pursuits. Roadies. The parents thought their boy was going for his tuition, while he was in the park smoking a Gold Flake, girl friend in tow.
Some of the kids started taking too much inspiration from our cricketers, many of whom never completed college. Nobody reminded them of the crucial difference though, that cricketers don’t need to know Math or Science. Or even Cricket, going by recent performances, but that’s besides the point.
And then “3 Idiots” happened. Suddenly, good old slogging was a bad thing. Wildlife photography was in. You could mess around with your teachers. You could come to class drunk and still be a hero. You could commit suicide if the pressure got to you.
China continued to race on. They don’t have time to watch movies.
Our kids mostly gave up on studies, while there was a second group of truly unlucky ones who got pushed into starting IIT coaching from the 8th standard, thereby ending up as nervous wrecks. And before we knew it, we were at the bottom of the heap. Poor Kyrgyzstan must wonder where they went wrong to be the only country worse than us.
The silver lining is that at this rate soon our children won’t know the capital of the state they live in. India would then become America.
So beat your children, India. Beat them hard, and give them Complan. They’ll thank you for it one day.