Parents with children in classes X and XII are a worried lot at least for four-five months every year—board exams, followed by entrance tests and the admission in an institution of choice, choice of specialisation of liking, hostel availability and a host of other concerns. Same could also be said of the young parents with children age-ready to enter playschool, nursery, KG or pre-school. Most of them, particularly in metros, have already fixed their targets, they would move heaven and earth to get the school of their dreams.
At present, the Indian system of school education is clearly divided into two distinct groups: private schools and sarkari schools. Even amongst the private schools, those affiliated to CBSE enjoy a pride of place. Every informed Indian parent would like to put their child in a CBSE private school. The popular impression is that these alone guarantee quality education.
One must remember that amongst sarkari schools, Kendriya Vidyalayas, Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas, and Army schools do enjoy a high level of credibility. Parenting, too, could be classified broadly into three categories: Those who get the child admitted and leave everything else to the school, those who occasionally discover pretexts to find faults with their children and dole out rebukes to keep them disciplined. Then come the most active type; they must fulfil their dreams and give them a social status not achieved earlier. Indian system seriously neglects its responsibility of making parents aware and alert. Mostly, parents pick up only one element out of the three essentials of growing up. It is marks and marks alone.
They rarely realise their role as first teachers. Not many are willing to comprehend the essence of the training of the spirit, or to accept that character building is the proper foundation for education, neglect of which could be disastrous. They could get pragmatic guidance from Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, and his own narration of ‘parenting and teaching’ at the Tolstoy Farm in South Africa.
When Gandhi established his Tolstoy Farm, he felt obliged to educate children from different religious and linguistic backgrounds. He writes in his autobiography: “Just as physical training was to be imparted through physical exercise and intellectual through intellectual exercise, the training of the spirit was possible only through exercise of the spirit.”
He was performing a dual role: that of a parent and teacher. He realised—he was not a Mahatma at that stage—much early in his life: “The exercise of the spirit entirely depended on the life and character of the teacher. The teacher has always to be mindful of his Ps and Qs, whether he is in the midst of his boys or not”. In the current context, the most important lesson to be learnt from Tolstoy Farm experience is: “It would be idle for me, if I were a liar, to teach boys to tell the truth.
A cowardly teacher would never succeed in making his boys valiant, and a stranger to self-restraint would never teach his pupils the value of self-restraint”. He concluded that he must be “an eternal object-lesson to boys and girls living with me”. Parents must remember that they are the first icons of their child.
Let the parents/teachers develop listening habits. Give them confidence to share, at least with one parent, even ‘inappropriate behaviour’. Let the child talk, express and articulate. Remember, child is the most important citizen of the family, and the country. Realise the value of his experiences; know about his friends, their habits and their background. They need the fragrance of love and care spread all-around at home, and in school.
J S Rajput
Former director of the NCERT