Coaching classes—to do or not to?

I have noticed that many parents in their eagerness to get kids admitted to good or reputed schools, enroll them in coaching classes, which claim to prep the child for admission to schools This is not required at all. Coaching classes turn a child into a parrot. This can be very dangerous as we limit the windows of opportunities to really learn. When I began my first pre-school in 1993, every parent wanted me to get their toddler ready for entrance exams at reputed schools. I had to spend hours counselling parents on why that was not only a waste of time but would also stunt the true development of their child. I explained this to them with the help of examples such as the one below.

At birth, a newborn has poor vision. However, vision develops very rapidly in the fi rst three years and continues to develop till the age of 7 or 8 years old. This period is called the window of opportunity for visual pathways to develop. If during this time the child develops a squint or needs glasses, his visual development may be delayed and, if not treated, may never reach its full potential. If vision is reduced and underdeveloped, it is called ‘lazy-eye’ or amblyopia.

Occlusion, or patching, is used to make a lazy eye work on its own and so improve the vision by encouraging the development of the nerve pathways from that eye to the brain. The patch is worn over the good eye and the amount of time the patch must be worn is decided by the orthoptist. If patching is implemented early on, good eyesight can be restored. However, if delayed beyond the right age, 8 in this instance, the window of opportunity for this development is largely closed since the age of development for the eye has already reached maturity. I went on to explain that if I spend time making toddlers learn by rote for an entrance test—I would be doing a disservice to the child. My focus has to be on active learning instead and on maximizing all the windows of opportunity that are open. Children learn from their surroundings. Therefore, active learning is very important. Restricting them to certain questions that enable admissions into schools is not advisable. Instead of opting for reputed schools, parents should look for a school that shares their values and makes the life of the student

comfortable and stress free.

What does the child face today?

Kids today face the biggest contradiction of all times. They are expected to remember huge amounts of information for answering their papers, when they know that information is just a mouse click away. They don’t see any meaning in retaining so much information except to score marks. Information storing, a left brained skill, is being done by machines. Then why do they have to do it? The answer to this is something parents, teachers, and educationists need to arrive at soon, before we end up turning education into a purposeless, meaningless ritual. We need to realize that the value lies in the right brain, in the ability to ingeniously create using the resources available to us by the left brain expertise. Just as Steve Jobs once did. The conceptual age is also about connecting dots or things that are seemingly unrelated. Steve Jobs also mentioned in his Stanford speech that life success is largely a matter of connecting dots. We go from one step to another, thinking that all the steps and incidents are stray cases. But it is not so. The dots somehow connect in the future. In retrospect they form a pretty neat pattern. That is why we have to trust that whatever occurs in our life is connected from the first dot to the last. A reading of Rashmi Bansal’s Connect the Dots shows the success stories of 20 entrepreneurs who succeeded because of their passion and their willingness to follow their heart. As we leave the information age behind, we need to guide our children to develop the aptitude and attitude required to discover their innate greatness. This type of success is not in tangible material comfort. It stems from the happiness that one experiences at a subconscious level and from being aspirational. Placing aspiration over ambition is a key value in my schools. We need to teach kids to aspire. As Prahlad Kakkar said to me, ‘We need to add value to what we see. I may be cleaning a sofa, but how can I do it better than the others who are also doing it. When the value of 2 and 2 becomes 22 and doesn’t remain 4, then we have added value to our life. The value of 2 and 2 as 22 has a great geometric proportion.’ I believe that the complexities of life are now increasing because of the rapidly changing business trends. Industry stakeholders are now demanding employees skilled in certain

specific areas and resources that go beyond their subject knowledge or skill sets. It’s not enough that you know your math or English well. You need to be a good communicator as well. Your role may ask you to empathize with people. A recent study shows that emotional reasoning is as important as the intelligence quotient in leadership roles. The ability of a leader to take into account what his team members feel about things holds equal value in the industry today. Brain research conducted on the best strategic planners of various companies showed that the emotional part of the brains worked at higher speeds than the intellectual part of the brain. Such skills need to be nurtured harmonizing the energies of all three—the child, the parent, and the teacher.