Three Misconceptions about Education


As a teacoffecher, I can’t help but to ponder about the goals of education. I’m well aware of the power of paradigms and perspectives. How we see education has a great implication on what we do as parents.


I see education as merely one of the many aspects of a child’s journey towards adulthood, in which the child learns, develops and grow into an independent, socially responsible, and full-functioning human being. As such, there is more to a child’s life than attending school, tuition and enrichment classes.


I see school as a place where children learn how to learn, and grow personally through the many learning opportunities and challenges that school life offers. These include dealing with a bully, facing rejections, handling stress, working as a team, leading others, etc,. These lessons aren’t simply to prepare them for adult life, but to enable them to live effectively as a pupil and to actualize their unique potentials. Besides school, the family plays a pivotal role in the child’s growth. Parents must not outsource everything to the school, especially moral education.


From the child’s perspective, “education” is a big word that simply means going to school, learning, making friends, and doing things with them, etc,. I gave up justifying to my ten-year-old brother who questions periodically: “Why must I go to school?” The truth is, children don’t go to school to prepare for their future. They go to school because that’s what people of their ages do. The alternative is either to stay at home (and deal with boredom) or to go to work (which they are too young or ill-equipped for). One could only hope that the process of education is so fun, engaging and exciting that children couldn’t wait to go to school.


So, what insights do the above perspectives give us? One common thread that runs through them is growth-oriented learning. The child has an innate capacity to learn and grow. School aims to develop the child holistically. The parent hopes for the child to grow into an independent, responsible and successful adult. As such, education is more about facilitating a child’s personal growth than the acquisition of knowledge or mastery of academic subjects.


While most educators and parents recognize that academic competence alone isn’t adequate, many continue to be trapped in the old thinking that a child’s primary task is simply to study. Unfortunately, countless well-intentioned parents continue to struggle unnecessarily with their children over the latter’s homework, study habits and academic performance because of their undue emphasis on academic achievements. Here are three common misconceptions that can contribute to their struggles:


Good Grades means Good Job, and Good Job means Good Life


Contrary to popular belief, the skills for scoring As in exams are not the same as the skills for living a successful life. Firstly, to the employer, academic results is only one of the many criteria used for screening a candidate during recruitment. Increasingly, greater emphasis is placed on skills, attitude, and relevant experience. Secondly, the definition of ‘good life’ or ‘success’ varies from individual to individual. What is ‘good’ to the parent may not necessarily be good to the child.


Philosophers, sages and scientists tend to agree that the foundation to a good life is virtues. For example, morality determines whether a whiz kid turns out to be a Nobel Prize-winning computer scientist or a notorious hacker. Thus, character education ought to deserve more attention than academic education.


Children must excel at their studies


Many parents cannot accept that their children could excel in non-academic pursuits such as sports or arts, and do badly in their studies. As a result, they direct their energy to ‘fixing their children’s weaknesses’ by enrolling the latter in tuitions, enrichment classes and motivational camps that promise to unleash their ‘giftedness.’ They fail to appreciate that every child has his unique set of abilities, talents, and limitations. When parents focus excessively on their children’s shortcomings, they risk dampening the latter’s morale and self-esteem, and adversely impact their performance.


Perhaps, we could learn from the corporate sector, in which human resource practitioners have long been advocating “Play to one’s strength.” By encouraging and supporting the child to excel in non-academic pursuits that are aligned to their innate talents, the confidence, discipline and self-esteem developed in the process can have a far more positive impact on their studies and later in their success in life than tuitions.


Good result is matter of hard work


When children don’t do well in their studies, parents often conclude that they have not worked hard enough. They drive their children to study even harder, often disallowing them from playing. As a result, their children become more stressed, both from failing to meet their parents’ expectations and the lack of relaxation that playing provides. The truth is, effort is only one factor of success. Others include having effective study techniques, exams strategy, and state management. State management is by far the most crucial, as any peak performance athlete would agree. It might be more beneficial for parents to help their children uncover and overcome the barriers that are preventing them from learning effectively, and seek to put them in the right mood or state of mind for learning or performing.


Every parent necessarily has his or her own ideas about education and the importance of academic achievements. After all, we are the products of our own history of experiences. But we must not let our biases get in the way of determining what is best for our children. We must be willing to question our beliefs, and eliminate any misconception that prevents us from parenting with greater joy, confidence and peace.