By Barry Mocke – General Manager, Balderstone Sports Institute and The Golf School of Excellence.
Why are schools and parents so obsessed with comparing academic results? I wear a couple of hats when I pose this question – I am a parent whose children have completed their schooling and who are now at varsity, I am an educational practitioner and a social observer and critic.
It is becoming ever more apparent to me that society’s fixation on the achievement of academic success is more about what parents, schools and society want and less about what is important or good for the student.
Government continues to measure the success of the academic system based on results when it is patently clear to most observers that the system is poor and is not preparing students for a life during and after school. Why then the fixation on pass rates and distinctions?
Schools manipulate students, their subject choices and assessment preparation (the objective is to do well in assessments and less on the understanding and application of knowledge) to ensure that they receive the best results and are therefore seen as being competitive against other schools. Their existence and funding is determined by the number of students enrolled at the school and parents are attracted to these “good” schools. How can their “needs” be more important than a child’s needs?
Pressure is exerted by both schools and parents for students to attend extra lessons and tuition. This is in addition to the 6-7 hours that they go to school every day and the 1-2 hours homework a day and then we have to add the extramural activities (many of which are compulsory). Many students work a longer day than their parents! To what end do children have a 10-12 hour school day? When do they have time to be children and teenagers?
It may be difficult to change the system (educational or school), but we (as parents) can make a difference. How?
1. Stop living vicariously through your children where your own unfulfilled dreams and aspirations are the focus. Your child is an individual who may have completely different interests and desires than you. Listen to them.
2. Notwithstanding societal pressure, your success as a parent should not be judged by how “clever” your child is. Spend time with your child doing things that build your relationship. Be a mentor. Don’t be overbearing. Love and support them.
3. School academic success will not determine how successful your child will be. Preconceived notions of results and subject choices may have no bearing on your child’s welfare and preferences. There is limited correlation between school academic success and personal development and happiness.
4. Don’t succumb to peer pressure. It is not just our children who are susceptible to this, we often follow the crowd without thinking of the consequences for our children. Because other parents send their children to extra lessons will not mean that your child will be left behind. Don’t measure your child’s development against the mistaken “progress” of other children.
5. It is normal to be proud of your child. Do this because your child is an individual whose personal development makes them happy. Don’t be proud of them for achievement against mistaken notions of external and false measures. Be careful of the over-emphasis on performance. Character and values are much more important.
“Many succeed momentarily by what they know; some succeed temporarily by what they do; few succeed permanently by what they are.” Anonymous
Daniel Wong, a learning and development expert, provides us with this advice:
• Permanent success is about what you are. It’s about your character.
• Your performance does not define you, it merely describes you.
• You’re defined by the values you hold on to, and the values you live out.
I am not suggesting that school education is not important, quite the contrary. It is a very important aspect of our personal development. The critical point is that it should be about the individual child and not about the school or parents. We should focus on what makes our children happy and their life direction that they choose. Schools should be facilitators in student’s personal development and parents should be taking time to have relationships with their children that centres on their happiness.
At TGSE and BSI we strive to create an environment of learning that focuses on the personal needs of each of our students. Every one of our student-athletes is on their own journey and as a result we don’t take a “one-size-fits-all” approach to their schooling. For us, education is a key element to their development but it must serve their personal growth and not the mistaken notions of academic success that is often broadcast by society.
I have a poster in the office that reads:
A Message to Parents
Your child’s success in sport (could also be academics) does not indicate what kind of parent you are …
But having a child that is coachable, respectful, a great teammate, mentally tough, resilient and tries their best is a direct reflection of your parenting.