CHENNAI: At a family gathering in a crowded restaurant, Ajay (9) is sitting in a corner, glued to his mother’s phone. Beside him, his older brother is busy browsing through Facebook and Twitter, and they give a cursory ‘hello’ to the other cousins.
Despite it being the ‘communication age’, it is a common lament that interpersonal skills are coming down, especially among school kids. This has led to a slew of ‘communication’ and ‘personality development’ classes, all of them promising ‘soft skills’ for students. The highly competitive world with the ‘corporate’ atmosphere is a reason for these classes. But how many really help children?
“A child’s basic personality is developed by the age of seven. After this, what we can do is tweak it, improve some characteristics or suppress some. We cannot ‘develop’ a personality,” said A Balachandar, a trainer in personal development, who conducts classes for various schools as part of the curriculum.
He said that Class 9 is an ideal level to begin such classes, before which the child is not mature enough to grasp what is being told.
Communication though, needs to be improved as working with others is required for any career today. “I have met software geeks who are brilliant at their job but just cannot work in a team,” he said. “They do not realise real people do not respond like they do on Facebook. Listening skills too, have sharply come down and need to be brought back.”
But plenty of these classes focus on the corporate world from an early age and provide classes on time management and goal setting right from the age of six or seven.
Many parents have been bitten by the bug of personality classes and begin sending their children for crash courses, but not all are satisfied. Malini Ramesh, mother of an eight-year old boy, was not too happy with the summer course that promised ‘effective communication’. “It was more about regular public speaking and focused only on management skills. It did not really tap into the child’s general potential in other fields,” she said.
Classes related to creativity and artistic potential are also popular, but these remain hobby classes while the corporate mantra has made its way into the minds of school students too.