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Sunday, 23 October 2016

Of Talent and Hunts

I park my Scooty and hurry in after my son to the help desk, weaving across groups of anxious parents. We have the downloaded admission ticket but no print-out. The guy at the desk just picks up a form, fills out the candidate’s name and roll number, thrusts it at us, and tells us to go to Room No. 15 on the first floor. 

We rush to the end of the corridor where a volunteer guides us further. I wish my son good luck, and tell him to take an autorickshaw to get back home once he’s done. He asks the volunteer if he can exit the hall once he’s finished and the guys says he doesn’t know about that. Me and my son give each other a conspiratorial smile and decide that I’ll come to pick him up at the ending time.

The volunteer has a surprised kind of look at this interaction. Maybe the other kids who went in were more serious and focused on the job on hand as compared to my son who’s asking about coming out even before getting in. I try to make the volunteer feel comfortable by explaining my kid is not really interested, but has come anyway. The metamorphosis on the guy’s face is immediate – he asks me if I’ve forced him to come.

I reply to that saying no, I’m not really particular, but my son has come because his class teacher selected him. I don’t know what took the wind out of his sails quicker – that a parent says she’s not really bothered about something as important as this or that a student in today’s times pays such heed to a teacher’s word.

The occasion is a Talent Hunt Exam being conducted by a self-proclaimed “India’s Premier Coaching Institute” that provides coaching for Medical and IIT-JEE entrance examinations. The students who get through this talent hunt exam will be offered 100% scholarship for the institute’s coaching classes. To me, that sounds a lot like one of those Flipkart or Amazon “Festival Sales” offers – offering discounts to tempt people into buying something they don’t really need in the first place, often the things being ones that you can find in some other places too if you really need them. But my grouse with e-commerce sites is fodder enough for another piece and so, I won’t really go there now.

At this point of time, when he’s in Class 9, my son doesn’t seem enthused by the idea of studying science and math. He prefers languages and social science. I don’t argue over this with him because I don’t believe in creating fertile soil for rebellion without a cause. Besides, I’m not too sure about that lack of cause. We’ve agreed to cross the career bridge when we come to it. If I get to have my way, it will involve an aptitude test to map his interests, abilities, aptitude and skills to help us arrive at the right decision.

Of all the people who read this piece, I suspect quite a few will find my approach disconcerting to say the least. A friend who flippantly cribbed about the 1 lakh per annum school fee he shelled out for his kid was shocked when I said I pay one-fourth of that at my son’s school – shocked enough to ask why I’d put my kid in a not-so-good school! For, in the world’s view, higher the school fee, greater its caliber. Of course, this friend is always pressed for time, as will be anyone who’s in a professional position that allows for a 1-lakh per annum school fee, so there wasn’t really time for an answer.

Yesterday, at my son’s school parent teacher meeting, the Principal had a sincere piece of advice born out of decades of experience with students. He told the parents to focus not on creating assets for their child, but instead, on making their child an asset. Each one of the teachers in this school embodies these values that define the fabric of Indian thought. To me, exposing my kid to an ecosystem where these values of simplicity and rootedness are given a lot of value is more important than giving him access to exhaustive coaching for academic and extra-curricular activities.

I go back to the exam centre and pick up my son. He tells me about how the paper was, how everyone was seriously scribbling on the rough sheets as they worked out the answers and cribs that he had to sit for almost an hour waiting to be let out. He’s read through the brochure that’s been distributed by the institute and tells me the whole episode is just to promote the coaching class. 

And then he comments on how I haven’t yet asked him how he performed. I think he’s actually happy about that and that’s probably why I get an honest answer – whatever he knows, he’s answered by thinking through and the rest by “inky, pinky, ponky.” 

Right now, I can’t find an answer to that.

6 comments:

  1. I totally agree with your observations that everyone should have the freedom and choice to pursue one’s interest. It’s wrong to force children with our priorities. Also paying more school fee never guarantees great future, but may satiate mere ego, which later may act as a source of disappointment and failure. The primary goal of the parents and teachers should be, to impart such education that strengthens the child, physically and psychologically. An educational system isn’t worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to make a living but doesn’t teach them how to make a life. Character building shall be the most cherished goal. Other things automatically fall in line. Allow the children to enjoy their childhood. This itself will make them worthy human beings. Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.

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  2. Totally agree with the article.thanks a lot for the beautiful article.

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  3. Excellent message for us as parents in today's context where there is a desire to expect kids to perform well and and in all possible aptitudes. Undoubtedly, with emphasis on strong character building and values, a child will surely find success in whatever he chooses to do.

    Wonderful article.

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    1. Thank you, Meena for articulating this so clearly.

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