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Over our usual dinner conversation last night, my 15 year made a statement that left an impact. “Ma, through the pandemic as I follow world news and especially in this country where people think of making money off worried patients (oxygen tanks, vaccine jab scams), crime (rape statistics are scary), ‘maskless’ photographs being circulated about people believing it is all behind them and the overall lack of humanity and empathy not to mention commen-sense has made me wonder how all this ‘learning’ that educated people have helps them make choices that have some pretty severe consequences for many others – they are only thinking about themselves? Or is lack of ‘education’ the real reason?’

Probing question isn’t it? And this one hits home for any educator or parent reading it. As I counsel parents for high school admissions and what they really need to think about (metacognition for starters not grades), the ultimate question is always ‘best’ school.

What defines this ‘best’ school?

For me, a school is time spent by children interacting with peers, being nurtured by teachers who can break down concepts at their level and explain and with that allow them a path to think, find solutions, a place to build relationships, and open your mind to new ideas, it is about being exposed to different skills like theatre or sports, or music and dance, it about negotiations and time management, it is about independence and taking ownership and making mistakes, it is about accepting another point of view – it is about interacting with teachers and learning from their experiences, it is about lunch conversations and laughing, it is about eventually graduating with skills that help transfer that knowledge into something that will allow the child to pursue a career that keeps them occupied, happy and provides them an opportunity to sustain their lifestyle.

I was told by many educators that I am a dreamer and that the reality is that parents do not want all this. The purpose of a good school is to ensure that ‘grades’ are achieved so that the transition is achieved seamlessly.

Fair, I understand that. Ofcourse education ‘practically’ is a means to an ‘end’ that society requires. I get them. But are we thinking of what children want? Or think?

Are we really answering their questions?

My son’s question is directed at all of us – would we rather have a child who thinks compassionately and believes in what he does, or would we rather take a 99.9 percent marksheet (aren’t these the ‘expected’ results these days?).

My response to my son was that those that are fortunate to be in school (and he understands the landscape in India with regards to the number of enrolments that have dwindled in the past year) need to also be responsible for finding solutions and not sit on the french and make statements. What can you do? How can you help? Also, those who continue to dilute the spirit of humanity will eventually be found out, and live their own consequences provided those that have the right vision put laws in place to course correct. The world is not a perfect place, and therefore it keeps us in the hunt, always learning. You can either become a cynic or a problem solver.

Safe to say, the conversation ended (😂) but I know he’s thinking along those lines. Because as a mum as much as I want him to ‘ace’ all exams, I would prefer he do it independently, making choices and decisions that he understands best but should that not work out, I would rather have a thinking child who is also focused on finding solutions. And that means it may or may not translate into grades. As parents, Ajit and I strongly believe in that.

So let’s get back to schools. How often do we do this in school? We talk about PBL or themes, we talk about learning outcomes, when will we in our schools talk about ‘real’ issues?

When will we have a marksheet that grades empathy as a subject.

Something to think about?


Fatema Agarkar

Founder, Agarkar Centre of Excellence Veteran of 3 educational start-ups – is now a Founder of Agarkar Centre of Excellence, Fatema’s passion for teaching-learning and children defines the different roles she has crafted – as an edupreneur, educator and mentor.

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