A few months ago, I was summoned by my five-year-old son's class teacher regarding his attentiveness in class. In an extremely hassled tone the teacher complained that my son doesn't follow instructions and seems quite uninterested in what is being taught. When I asked my son why he behaved like that, he coolly responded, "I can't see the blackboard properly and so can't understand what she says." His matter-of-fact response got me thinking about why the teacher couldn't solve such a simple issue without involving the parents. After all, is it not a teacher's responsibility to invest in every child, ensure that they are interested in what is being taught and if they are not then at least endeavour to get them engaged? Let me also add here that my son is quite an obedient child in general and usually puts a lot of effort into anything that he is passionate about.
There are two issues at hand -- one pertaining to the teacher's interest in students and the other to increasing a child's interest level so that he learns better.
I was also somewhat alarmed about how much the teacher had escalated a simple issue of sustaining a child's interest. Might it leave a lasting impact on his impressionable mind? And forget my son's situation, is this not an issue in the majority of Indian schools? And perhaps this attitude of teachers is also the beginning of problems such a lack of concentration, a lack of confidence and a lack of focus in making career choices.
So there are two issues at hand -- one pertaining to the teacher's interest in students and the other to increasing a child's interest level so that he learns better. Addressing both is extremely important towards the growth and development of our children. In this article I have attempted to offer some suggestions basis my own experiences.
Around the same time as the above incident, I introduced my son to two online platforms that promise to impart quality education in a way that is fun for children: Khan Academy (caters to all subjects from K5-12) and Duolingo (language-learning platform). He now often takes his maths and English lessons on these platforms and enjoys it to the core. What I love about both is their simplicity and the focus on making content engaging. The way they are built makes learning exciting, and children feel as if they are playing a game. In addition, there is also a mechanism to track a child's progress, understand his difficulties and challenges, which can be on immense help to both parents as well as teachers. At five years of age (and even later sometimes), children do not really understand the benefits of learning, so if they are forced into it, it often ends up becoming a burden for them. Their minds are inquisitive, they like to know about anything that is new, they like to play games and if all these facets can be combined to help them learn better, it's a win.
Involving parents in collaborative initiatives is a good idea but simply complaining about the child cannot really solve any problem...
Technology, especially innovative gamification techniques (application of gaming mechanisms to non-gaming contexts) is a good way to engage young minds. In fact this technique is not just being used for kids now, but also in corporate environments to build better, motivated teams, increase customer stickiness etc. Gamification in an education environment can help drive greater interest in the subject, challenge kids to solve complex problems, drive competitive spirit, boost confidence, build greater recall and retention, ultimately helping them to learn better.
It is important for schools to adapt these new techniques of learning to better engage and inspire students. After all, schools play a crucial role in shaping a child's future and unleashing his/her potential; conversely, missteps on their part can shake the very foundation of a child's personality and cause long-term confidence issues.
In addition to the introduction of smart new learning tools (which many schools have begun doing), what is also needed is a whole mindset change. The teacher needs to feel responsible for improving interest levels in children. Involving parents in collaborative initiatives towards this objective is a good idea but simply complaining about the child cannot really solve any problem in my view. Clearly it's time for the temples of learning to look at a paradigm shift in the way they are imparting knowledge!