Poorna Kulkarni
Saturday, 1 June 2019

Recently, a parent put up a post on a social media platform where he appreciated his child’s performance at the Board exam and proudly mentioned that he would support her in all her future endeavours without mentioning her score anywhere. Poorna Kulkarni talks to new-age parents who are appreciating their child’s strengths without stressing on marks

Browsing through Instagram, you can come across a cute video clipping of Alisah’s world. Alisah, who is the younger daughter of Sushmita Sen, Bollywood celebrity and former Miss Universe, draws beautiful Mother Earth on a piece of paper and she emphasises the fact that each one of us has a special talent and it must be appreciated. “Everybody is good at something. I may be good at Math, my friend may be good at art. But that doesn’t make us any different. At the end of the day, we are all the same,” she says. Doesn’t the nine year old put across a beautiful thought — can’t we just appreciate an individual’s strengths?   

This message is particularly meant for Indian families who obsess over ‘good scores’. Every year during Board results, students and parents go through anxious moments because they think that the child’s future is defined by marks. But if it was all about marks, then we wouldn’t have school and college dropouts turning into successful entrepreneurs!  

Children shouldn’t be bracketed as a 90 per cent scorer or a 60 per cent scorer. One exam cannot not decide the fate of the child. Also comparisons must stop. For this to happen, parents and children must stop obsessing over marks. 

Fortunately, there has been a slight change in the mindset. On social media platforms, new-age parents have been expressing their happiness about their child’s performance at the Board exams, no matter what they have scored. It’s encouraging to see such positive attitude, and may the tribe increase.        
Board results are considered to be a milestone in a student’s life. Which is why, Vandana Katoch, founder of Clayground Communications, proudly posted her son’s 10th Board (CBSE) results, he scored  60 per cent, on a social media platform. Her post not only started trending, but Katoch was lauded for appreciating her child’s performance. “It is very important to appreciate and being there for your child. I remember, my son struggling with a subject and I had a few concepts still fresh in mind, so I helped him out. He too put in his best effort and worked sincerely,” she says adding, “When the results were declared, I went to the bus stop to pick him up and he told me scored 60 per cent. I gave him a congratulatory hug and in the evening, we had a small family celebration.” If parents are supportive, it makes it easier for kids to stay calm and not succumb to exam pressures. 

Veena Kulkarni was also a proud parent when her daughter Gauri scored 63 per cent at the Maharashtra Board SSC exam.  The retired bank employee, says, “Both my husband and I did not insist on Gauri getting a rank or a target score. We told her that anyone can do anything of his/ her interest and can become successful.” Such assurances help relax the child. She adds, “After the 10th results were declared, we celebrated, distributed sweets and were joyful. My daughter told me from then on she would never appear for any Math exams and this was respected.” 

Ashraf Engineer, principal consultant at a communication consultancy, cannot agree more. He iterates that being there for the child makes a difference. He says, “Once in a while, a simple assurance like, ‘Don’t worry about anything’, or ‘Make sure you are having a good time’ goes a long way. I was happy with my daughter’s ICSE score. No one insisted on getting certain marks or rank. We saw to it if she was happy and learning. Unlike earlier, today the world is changing with new industries and career options. So the approach and definition of performance have changed. We must focus on how we develop as a person. Marks are one aspect of life and not the end line.” 

Kusum Devadiga, who works in an administration department in a school, however, was more tensed than her son Gaurav who appeared for Maharashtra HSC exam this year. She says, “Whenever I would ask him about preparations he would calm me down which should have been the other way round! I remember him telling me that he doesn’t like sitting with books for long hours, instead he aspires to be an all-rounder. I really respect how he sees himself. What makes me happy is that he has learnt to deal with pressures.”

There is competition all around us, which is why it is important for parents to be supportive or else children can crumble under pressure and lose their self confidence. Recognising her daughter’s strong social skills, Kulkarni did not push her to pursue Math just because she comes from a Math-loving family. “I had observed that Gauri likes to travel and visiting new places with a keen interest in the expenses involved in the entire outdoor plans,” says Kulkarni. Considering her inclination towards travelling, her parents were happy with Gauri’s choice of pursuing  tourism as her career.   

Engineer feels that discussing matters openly helps. “We discussed career options with my daughter who has an interest in both Arts and Commerce. She is extremely good at Economics; eventually she settled down for Commerce,” he says adding that parents must help kids to figure out their careers by talking to them and asking questions so that they get their answers. 

Devadiga feels, “We have to look at the strengths and talents of the child. My son is good at playing the guitar and loves sports. I will be supportive of any career choice Gaurav makes. When I can see talent in him, I see much scope for growth.” 

It’s not always possible for parents to understand the child’s strengths so that’s when education counsellors come into the picture. Atul Pawar, education counsellor and internationally certified Psychometric Testing Professional, says, “As an education counsellor, it is important to understand where the interest of the student lies and it is done through psychometric tests. They help in recognising the natural talent, interest and passion to channelise it in an appropriate way. I believe that more than the intellectual quotient, it is the emotional quotient that holds greater value. There are more than 2,000 to 3,000 new career options available at any given point. Based on these results and their interests, I lay out the career options because it is very important to be in the right place and make the right choice.” He emphasises on the point that parents’ unconditional support is vital in the career selection for the student. 

Another counsellor Nilima Apte, section head — Aptitude Test and Career Guidance’ (ATCG), Jnana Prabodhini Samshodhan Sanstha, says that there has been a change in the attitude of parents. “We have so many students coming for guidance and we do notice the positive attitude and acceptance level of parents. Recently, we had parents who were highly educated, as in doctors, who supported their daughter’s interest in designing. New-age parents are as interested as students in the new career options that are available. There are times when we see conflicting interests between parents and the student, but we do convince them towards the student’s interest.” 

Dr Sukumar Munje, expert in Neuro Linguistic programming (NLP), Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy, says, “People see a lot of competition but in reality, it doesn’t exist, as there are different opportunities around but are reluctant to look at them.” According to him, there have been active awareness among parents so the level of acceptance is gradually increasing. He says, “There are parents who do not wish to put pressure on kids so they focus more on the strengths of the child. The changes can be seen but in small pockets and that too in metro cities.” 

The goal should be to improve yourself and not obsess over your competitors. Shruti Garad, who appeared for Maharashtra SSC, says, “I decided to give my best shot. There wasn’t any pressure from my parents but I wanted to make them proud. I knew one thing, if I score good, it is a good thing. But if I do not, I will consider it as a motivating factor to do better next time. Also, I was equally involved in all the extracurricular activities and I enjoyed them.” 

One should realise that there will be several challenges in the future and one exam cannot seal your fate. Adarsh Chalke, who appeared for SSC, says “There were comparisons everywhere but I chose to ignore. When I was preparing I kept in mind that I would have to do better for myself. Even at times when I used to be tensed, my parents would tell me that there are different exams in life to look up to and do better at.” 

Aditi Malagi, who appeared for Karnataka HSC, says that she did not experience any pressure initially but as the exam dates approached, she felt the heat. “There were times when my parents would wake up with me in the mornings so that I could study at ease. They constantly told me that I shouldn’t be worried about anything,” she says adding that her educators and teachers helped her with regular inputs and workshops in college. 

Educators also contribute towards the overall success of a student. Neeraja Adury, section coordinator, C K Thakur Vidyalaya, Panvel, feels that education today is more application based than the earlier rote learning method. “Apart from scores, assessment should be based on how much knowledge the student has acquired. Introducing different subjects as per their age helps in developing cognitive skills,” she says. 

Grishma Kajabaje, Teach for India (Fellow), has always believed that a personal connect with students brings out the best in them. Sharing her experience, she says, “I had a student, who never completed his work sheets and failed in class. One day, I visited his home and realised that he was interested in Physics and practical knowledge was his strength. He opened electrical appliances, checked and fixed them. He hated theoretical subjects. The two-hour home visit helped me asses his strengths. Today, he comes first in school tests.” 

Even though there have been big changes in education, many still believe that marks indicate a student’s intelligence, which is unfortunate. Anoop Parik, assistant teacher and football coach at Shree Geeta Vidyalaya, says, “There are enough stories about how connecting with a student can create amazing transformations. If we begin by understanding where a child comes from, we can start to help them cope with the real things that are stopping them from succeeding.”

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