Monday, October 10, 2005

Schools - a dilemma

Back in the days when I was educated, for my parents, getting admission into a school was a very simple thing. In those days, "clustering" seemed to be the logic followed by most parents.
If most people from a particular apartment block went to X school, then the next few kids from that block also go to the same school. Apart from the basic question of whether it should
be an English medium school or vernacular school and accessibility and ease of admission or whether it was convent or co-ed, little else mattered. The word of mouth in the building and locality took care of any other issues that remained.

Today, (Bangalore perspective), it seems to be a greatly complicated thing. Apart from the local state board (which nobody seems to want), there is CBSE ( known for its high standard of education) and there is ICSE. There is also an International Baccalaureate (I hope I got that spelling right, kids are going to have a tough time). The fees increase exponentially in the order I have written about. Some schools also teach horse riding and stuff like that. Then there are schools which boast of a student teacher ratio of 1:20. Then there are schools which claim to have no pressure, no homework and no exams for kids. There are schools which promise personality development and lots of other fringe benefits.

My point is that, all these things are not bad. But really, is life like that? Do you want kids spending 10 years in some sort of utopia only to find that the real world can be cutthroat, dot eat dog, with a fair amount of stress and honestly, quite difficult? Is it a good idea to spend 10 odd years as some sort of a hyped up superhero in school only to find out that the whole world wears their underpants inside? Or is it better that the kid goes to a school where the education part is taken care of with a smattering of exposure to the vagaries of life with exams, homework and the like? Would I go through school with personalised attention for 10 years only to find that in real life, nobody could care less about me? Would I go through no exams for 10 years only to find a big exam staring at me every year after that, all of which are intensely competitive. It is fine for rich parents, but what if I have to make it the hard way (of course, I mean, the regular way, with exams and merit lists and waiting lists).

I am not taking a stand here, I would really like to know if what these schools are doing is the right way, then, I guess 90% of us seem to have 100% flawed education. But it has helped us succeed in whatever little way in our real lives. So, will these new schools ready our kids for the reality of life? Will this kind of education take them to a higher level of success? Or will they, like the chicken, emerge out of the protective egg shell only to find that they are a chicken in real life?

Well, let me know!


L said...

Yup , I strongly agree..!! Having grown up in ICSE with examinations in 11 subjects and projects in each.. Learned early what it was to slog..!!
I really pity this generation..!!

I had also heard that mathematics being made optional in some cases..!!

Niti Bhan said...

I don't know, neelakantan. I've had the kind of education you discuss, and after that I went to BMSCE back in very late 1984 - when Bangalore U was still coming to terms with student strikes etc. My primary and secondary education were at small, international schools abroad, not more than 15 in my final class for the GCSE O Levels. On one hand, being in a BMSCE rather than an IIT taught me more about real life than schooling, and I think that it should be at the college level that kids should get used to reality. A good primary/secondary schooling is a grounding in the fundamentals for life, and I cannot regret my experience.

JM said...

Many of these schools are targetting the expat and the NRI-return types. With their gated communities and air-conditioned cars, they hardly have to interact with the real Bangalore. These schools just complete their lifestyle. When college comes calling, I guess they will just head back to the US or wherever they came from.

The worrying thing is that it seems to have become an aspirational thing for most of the "upwardly mobile" locals too. I've seen instances of kids travelling a couple of hours each day to go to one of those alternative schools, which is definitely not a good thing.

AkaRound Peg said...

Good blog, I come here often.

This post is very topical for me! I went thru all the arguments you have put forth when deciding a school for my 3 year-old. I live in Muscat and my choice ranged from CBSE schools, to the British system, the American system and the Intl Baccalaureate (IB).

We finally chose a school that had a happy atmosphere, friendly and compasionate teachers - I figured young children need love and encouragement more than a strong curriculum or exposure to the real world. The student teacher ratio at my son's school is more like 1:5 ( 10 students from 8 countries, 1 teacher (white American) and 1 assistant teacher (from Ghana).

Your argument about living in an unreal world has merit and it bothered me too but I felt I would let my son learn about the wicked world when he is older and better able to understand things. Right now he does not need to be yelled at by a overworked stressed out teacher or be pressured into academics. I agree with Niti Bhan - my nephew went to Aditi which during his time was about the plushest school in Bangalore, he is at NID now and has turned out fabulously 'despite' a very elitist upbringing.

Neelakantan said...

I like the points made in the comments and its actually helped clear the muddle in my mind. But I agree that exposing a child to the vagaries of life through a stressed out teacher is not the best thing. But then a sudden jump from no stress to stress is also not advisable. Perhaps, a gradual introduction to the real world is a good idea!!

AkaRound Peg said...

Neelakantan - I don't think it is a no stress situtaion in these schools. The students are expected to excel and study hard. But the accent is on doing better than last time, understanding the subject - not just doing better than ABC or attaining a high percentage. The method of study is different - for instance they are assigned projects and expected to figure out for themselves using the library or the internet rather than have a teacher dictate notes which they would then mug up. The teacher is more a guide and there is no spoon feeding. Students are also encouraged to speak their minds, ask questions. This encourages independent thinking.

But possibly the curriculum in these schools is less demanding than the Indian curriculum. My 3 year old will not be taught to seriously write till he is in KG at age 5. By then Indian school kids will probably be writing short sentences. But then again by age 8 kids from these schools are likely to read Harry Potter while Indian school kids will probably be just begining on Enid Blytons.

Lots of pros and cons either way!!

Kapil said...

Every parent would want their child to get the best schooling money can buy. But I believe the role does not end there, if you want your child to know reality and that people actually "wear the underpants inside" you need to spend a lot of quality time with them teaching/telling/sharing experiences of life to help them understand life and it's many faces beyond the school campus.

And I would like to agree with AkaRound Peg when he says that a child is protected till a certain age and should face the wicked world when he is better able to. BUT, let us not forget: The child should be aware that survival is tough and he should be infused with the spirit to achieve it against all odds.

Solty said...


This is a question to AkaRound Peg. Which school did u finally decide on for ur child in Muscat?

I am in a similar dilemma now. My child is at an ICSE school and we are now contemplating a move to Muscat this year. I have been looking on the net for the possible schools and am now unclear as to which programme would suit my child best after an ICSE.

Anonymous said...

Hi Neel,
the focus and meaning to education has greatly changed and its the enviornment/ society which has caused this change. I guess in our time the strain and competition were minimal as compared to todays time and i feel these schools are actually doing the right things and morever if you see theres no harm for a kid to enjoy early years of his life with little comforts and attention . So with time I see more changes and changes for the good.

Anonymous said...

I don't think young generation school kids are all protected and not exposed to any stress. Some of the education systems provide abnormal stress to primary kids, so that they start hating to go to school. The current mode adopted at some schools are they will ignite an interest in kid to learn more and from there it is easier. Biggest hurdle in Indian education system is kids doesn't know what they are learning and why they are learning. Traditional way, kids are mugging periodic table and relativity theory just to score higher marks. This won't take young generation anywhere. India need an education system wherein after basic education, youngsters should be able to select their career path, of course with the help of their mentors and to focus on achieving greater standards in their chosen area. Unlike current scenario of mechanical/civil engineer working for a software services company. We need to provide specialized education for which a complete make over of our education system is required.

Anindya said...

Hello guys,
Incidentally I stumble upon this blogsite during some self made break in my desk. Me and my wife are engg graduates from Kolkata , both students of West Bengal Board and State Joint Entrance. Our son is in Dubai, going through CBSE since last 5 years. We are planning to return to Kolkata for his +2 and further college education , now he is in grade 5.

We need to make plans and your observations are pretty correct, though contracdictory.

We are going through homeworks, exam stresses, 4 in a year, and so on, but we feel CBSE is much better compared to state boards, which we experienced through our careers. Plush schools with personalised attention can be afforded upto mid school, but from grade 9 onwards one has to face the real world.

Regards to all.
Anindya Chatterjee

blurian said...

I used to think these problems were only for those in a rarified atmosdphere; not so. Factors in my maid's case: proximity at first. Now that she has made a move, it's the teachers and the atmosphere. Also, cost: Kannada medium costs - mind you, costs- less than English for the primary school. But she takes loans from her employers and adjusts. Employability and advancement: she wants him to be fluent in English, so she sends him to a tutor, paying 150 a month.

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kaysri said...

@AkaRound Peg
could u pls name this school u were talking about.we are moving from chennai (an icse school)to muscat and would require ur assistance.