Letter of the Day | Encourage children to respect, take responsibility
THE EDITOR, Madam:
In order to counter the ‘dunce’ culture we need to stop giving children who are academically weak the impression that they are inferior, thereby lowering their self-esteem. The basic and primary school curricula are overloaded with content, most of the brightest students struggle with it, they tend to forget by the time they reach the secondary level. One of the purposes of this overloaded curriculum is for the children to be selected for secondary schools of their choice. Children who fail to get placed in one of these ‘top tier’ schools are regarded by themselves and others as being less intelligent. It is not surprising that some of them gravitate towards communities which make them feel welcome and useful.
If our main objective is that all children should see themselves becoming valuable members of society, we need to stop ranking children based on their performance and start celebrating their differences. Praising them for being helpful, patient, cheerful, happy to run errands or to clean, or being kind with animals, raises their self-image and their worth in others’ eyes. Older children need praise for effort and achievement, however small that might be.
More emphasis should be placed on ensuring that all children are reading and communicating orally and in writing at their grade level by the end of Grade 6, and that they see the purpose in and enjoy doing so. In math, children need to master basic concepts before moving on. Most of the difficulties with math stem from the lack of a proper foundation. People fear that good students will be held back by weaker students, but they can be given enrichment activities. The Internet is replete with them. When children can read, they can find out anything they want to know.
Complementing the traditional three R’s is another set – that of respect, reliability and responsibility. Respect for every other human. Reliability means showing up and doing what you are supposed to do when you say you will. Reliability also includes self-reliance. Learning to take responsibility needs to begin at an early age. If these character traits are not taught at home, they need to be taught at school.
We rightly take pride in the achievements of our lawyers, doctors, engineers and academics, both here and abroad. Their success is often attributed to our educational system. We also have our share of unemployable people and criminals. Couldn’t the education system be adjusted to reduce the numbers of the latter? Steps are being taken in that direction, but for many individuals, they are too late.