The article titled ‘Sorry, your child is not bright enough’ published in Today has been creating waves lately, at least where my Facebook and Twitter are concerned.
I’ve heard from some parents sharing about how the tuition industry and its proponents have ‘mercenarised’ education, and about how wrong it is that some enrichment centres reject children from entering if they don’t pass an entrance test. And we are talking about children as young as six here.
The idea about enrichment centres ‘streaming’ and selecting ‘the cream of the crop’ is appalling. I think it’s also very revealing about the way Singapore does education.
But my main focus here is on parents — who feel that if they don’t enrol their children in these centres they will get left behind even before they set foot in primary one. I know we live in an extremely competitive and ‘kiasu’ environment, and as parents, we only want to provide the best environment for our children’s intellectual growth and well-being. But have we ever stopped to think that all this pushy parenting and undue stress can be counter-productive to the learning and development of our young ones?
If you were a 6-year-old, and you’ve just been told that you didn’t make it into a particular enrichment centre because you didn’t do well enough on a test, how would you feel? What would it do to your self-esteem?
At best, the child makes it through, does sufficiently well through primary school and secondary level education, and lands himself a spot at a local university (something he might have been able to do anyway without the help of an external education provider at a young age). But at worst?
Perhaps we need to rethink the equation that child + enrichment courses = good grades = highly intelligent and eventually successful individual. Perhaps we need to rethink the entire concept of intelligence itself.
I’ve been reading John Medina’s Brain Rules for Baby, and it’s been a refreshing read. Medina is a developmental molecular biologist and author of the New York Times bestseller Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School — a provocative book that challenges the way our schools and work environments have traditionally been designed.
In Brain Rules for Baby, Medina talks about the danger of hyper-parenting, and lists the ways in which it can potentially hurt our children’s intellectual development:
- Extreme expectations stunt higher-level thinking — pushing your child to perform tasks his brain is not developmentally ready to do can lead to them resorting to lower-level thinking instead of higher-level thinking and processing skills.
- Pressure can extinguish curiosity — where children focus their energy on securing parents’ approval instead of exploring their worlds.
- Continual anger or disappointment becomes toxic stress — at the extreme, this can create a psychological state known as learned helplessness, which can physically damage a child’s brain, and is deemed a ‘gateway to depression’.
Really, good grades are not the be all and end all. Don’t stress our young. Let them enjoy their childhood. If you really want to invest in their education, try these instead.
Spend time with them.
Nurture their love for exploration and discovery.
Model timeless values such as kindness and generosity.
Read great books together.
Hone their social skills.
Emphasize the value of effort and hard work.
And perhaps, just perhaps, these will benefit them in all areas of life, above and beyond the academic realm.
I leave you with this quote from the book:
“Write this across your heart before your child comes into the world: Parenting is not a race. Kids are not proxies for adult success. Competition can be inspiring, but brands of it can wire your child’s brain in a toxic way. Comparing your kids with your friends’ kids will not get them, or you, where you want to go.”