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What Should You Do If Your Child Isn't Into Academics?

Book excerpt from 'Drama Teens'.

29/12/2016 4:29 PM IST | Updated 02/01/2017 8:52 AM IST

"Our society has been hypnotised into believing that a student who is successful in school will be successful in life, and although this may occasionally be true, the opposite is not necessarily false." —Alec Sahakian

I have struggled as a parent, a teacher and an educator for a very long time.

My issue as a parent was that my son did not perform well academically. In a country with limited options for those adults without demonstrated excellence in secondary education, where would my son stand in his tertiary exam? This was my big challenge.

Had I had preconceived notions that my son "should" one day be a doctor or engineer, I would probably have been in a mental institution by now!

In India, cut-off marks in many tertiary institutes are 95% and above. I knew that if my son, notwithstanding his lack of interest in his academic pursuits, could still develop the habits of success, then he stood a chance to not just survive but also thrive in the real world that is unforgivingly competitive. Today, I can be at peace that at the age of 25, Drish is flourishing in his business pursuits, and demonstrating responsible adult behaviour. My confidence in my son, his ability to succeed in his pursuit(s) of choice and embrace responsible adult behaviour assisted me in managing his transition from school to work, and my transition from a concerned parent to a very proud one. Had I been a parent with preconceived notions that my son "should" one day be a doctor, engineer, or an IIT graduate, I would probably have been in a mental institution by now!

As a teacher, my issue is being asked to teach vast amounts of content that I know can be accessed by my students at any time, any place, today and in the future. Often, what we should teach and what we are compelled to teach by the committees and boards that set standards are not aligned, and may even be at odds with one another. I know that most of the skills and habits of inquiry and advocacy, of robust intellectual curiosity and the importance of instilling emotional security and well-being that leads to a successful life, do not get tested in standardised exams, and therefore do not form a part of most conventional learning systems.

My second challenge is that not all children are born to excel in their academic endeavours. My goal is and has always been for all my students to find their own success in the world they inhabit. It is for this goal that I founded Kangaroo Kids and Billabong High.

In the early 16th-century, the Italian philosopher Machiavelli observed: "There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things."

In 1993, I pioneered a whole new concept in learning as I knew that the conventional rote system of learning would not equip children with the skills and abilities to have inquiring minds, to find their own success in an ever-changing world—one that is filled with an abundance of information, myriad new ways to access that information as well as the social revolution born of digital technologies.

An excerpt from my new book Drama Teen.

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