One of the most common issues that trouble parents who stay in small town India has to do with the dismal quality of schools in their town, and when they should pack off their child to a good school in a big city for improving their education and increasing their chances of success in their career.
Along these lines, here is a typical question, that someone recently asked me:
<X> is studying in Std 7 and she is a bright student. She stays in a small town and there is not much option of good schools. In fact there is only one english medium school of descent standard. <X>’s parents want to send her to some boarding school so that she can get a better platform and can get other exposure in addition to good studies. Basically they wants that she gets more opportunity to build her career, which is not possible in her current school.
Initially I was not in favor of sending small kids to boarding school because then they are away from their parents. But I was convinced that such a bright student deserves a better platform to shape her future.
Just wanted to know your view on this.
Here is my view on this:
I am not in favor of sending a school kid to boarding school. At this stage, it is more important for her to have a loving home, and parents who set a good example – that is something that cannot be recreated anywhere else, and it has a huge impact on how her life turns out. In the long term, quality of schooling has a much lower impact on overall happiness, and sensible life choices than closeness to caring parents. If she’s bright, the career will take care of itself, as long as the sensible choices and happiness are there. Maybe it might take 5 years longer, because she is not in a big city and top school. In such matters, for success: “Der hai, andher nahiN.”
I would suggest the following:
- Get a good fast broadband internet connection
- Introduce her to sites like Khan Academy
- Encourage her to learn on her own
- Allow her to spend lots of time on the internet, if she gets interested in educational sites like Khan Academy, or even Wikipedia browsing.
- Watching educational videos or self-help videos, or do-it-yourself videos on YouTube is also recommended.
- Get her a Kindle
- Encourage her to read. Anything that she’s interested in reading, even trashy novels are fine.
- Spend money on buying good books on the Kindle (or even bad books, if she’s reading)
Consider shifting her to a big city, good school either after 10th if she’s a mature and sensible kid, otherwise, after 12th.
For a second opinion on this question, I asked my friend Bhooshan Shukla, who’s a child psychiatrist, whether he agreed or disagreed with me, and here’s his response:
- I agree with all of your points.
- Internet is important.
In addition, he felt that in many such cases, it was important to keep this in mind:
It is also v important to keep the child grounded as it is quite common for parents to assume talent in a child. Such kids can be in for a rude shock when exposed to real world later.
In other words, it is quite common for parents to over-estimate the abilities of the child, and then place the burden of unrealistic expectations, which can cause serious problems. So it is important to get a reality check, before starting to push your child too much. (Remember, praise the efforts, not the achievements. The former will make them redouble their efforts, the latter will make them over-confident and lazy.)
Note: there are of course special situations in which it does make sense to send kids to boarding school. Some examples are:
- If family is going thru extended turmoil and child is better isolated from this trouble. e.g. severe and prolonged illness of a family member.
- If the family is likely to split or parents are not fully available for the child.
- If the safety of the child in the family home is compromised, e.g govt servants, bank officers, military officers in border areas. etc.
- If the family situation/tradition is such that does not really have the ability to provide the minimum discipline that a child needs; in this case, the child is totally pampered at home and will grow up to be a spoilt brat if not for the discipline and hardships of a boarding school.