GIVE A CHOICE

Our world today has prescribed  measures of standardisation which does not leave any room for Belgium chocolate ice cream with Brownie chunks dipped in Aber Falls dark chocolate coffee liqueur!! Yummm!!

The world will have us believe that only vanilla ( I have nothing against the ice cream) and a few very slight variants  are good for you and indeed get you palette ready for the more exotic kinds. Oh well!!

Why would want the non-standard ice cream? After all it is a risk and comes at a hefty price.

Let’s see, even clothes. If you are not ready to buy the standard size and designs off the H&M’s and Mango’s of the world sure you can go to one of the boutiques and get customised designs but remember there is a risk and yes there is a price. Why not stick to the standard; you can buy five or more for the price of one. And then there are the SALES as well, think about all the advantages!!

The world will have us believe that the standard has a sense of security with least risk; it helps you blend in.  But there exists a world beyond this. A world that has been hand crafted by the dreamers and the risk takers who went out and said – I want the Belgium Chocolate ice cream; vanilla is just not good enough for me.

What do these people have in common?

Apart from the dreaming and the ability to take a risk; they did not conform to the standard measurement of anything – not intelligence, not economic viability and not even the standard system of working. They have ruled by breaking all the rules.

So here I am talking the complete opposite of what I wrote in my last article. But if you read carefully, I am not. It really is an extension to it.

I understand that the generation seem to be focusing on the shortcomings of the education system and are driving themselves to being discontent and hence looking for an alternative where there is none to be found. Do I blame them? No!

And yet the-keep-it-safe attitude kicks in because I too am conditioned like that. Unfortunately majority of our children will grow up conditioned to conform to the standard. They too would look at the wildflower and believe that it would not bloom when the time comes and not be able to appreciate the fact that the wildflowers, unlike the rose, are more resilient and can grow in even the most hostile conditions. And yet, while the rose will find their way into the conference rooms and get to enjoy the air conditioning- the wildflower will have to brave the outdoors and breathe the fresh air.

I wish on the other hand that we could teach the children the beauty of individualism. The advantages of knowing oneself and then adding these to reach a destination that is unique to them. Maybe one day they will learn to question what is taught but in a healthy manner.

They learn to question IF it had happened instead of WHAT happened in a History class. Maybe then they could analyse the situation better in order to apply it to their future. Perhaps even imagine that IF the British did not rule India back in 20th century and instead partnered with India and treated all equal. Allow the children to imagine a cricket team with the strengths of England and India (Pakistan and Bangladesh). Think about the economic power. Think!!

They learn to question the HOW instead of WHERE in geography and perhaps learn how they can save the shift in agriculture. The capital of the states can be found on GOOGLE!!

Give the children a bag of plastic and ask them to get rid of it – waste management. When they bury it out of their sight for lack of an alternative, that is when they will understand the Pollution Problem–and that would be one big Physics lesson done without words!!

The world has moved towards the customised life whether it is ice cream, clothes or cars. Why are we not adapting our Education? The other things are not half as important, and yet we have this misunderstood devotion to the standard education which churns out students with standardised intelligence and dreams. Don’t our children deserve MORE?

So do we let them take a plunge and give up education all together??

Maybe not!! Not just yet anyways, but instead of marking them down and calling them a fool for thinking in a non-standardised manner – Try EMPATHY. Do not ridicule their attempt to chase their dreams; rather try to see their dream with them. For once – Give them a CHOICE.Maybe then you can find a balance between your desire of standard achievements and your child’s attempt at UNIQUE EXCELLENCE!!

WE DON’T NEED NO EDUCATION

It’s another day at work and I got an unusual yet a common question thrown my way.

“WHEN DO YOU KNOW YOU HAVE STUDIED ENOUGH?

When do we know that the education will not help me anymore?”

I wish someone had recorded my expressions at the moment because I was seriously stumped. Here I am in the business of selling Education and mostly encouraging children to study, study well or study more depending on which stage they are at. To say that I did not have an answer would be an understatement.

What I said to this 16 year old and what I really wanted to say to him were not the same. What I wanted to say to him, as a parent, would not come as a surprise to most parents who are reading this.

Let me give you both the sides and you could perhaps decide for yourself, which route you would take if YOU are ever in my position.

First and foremost, when I call this unusual and yet common, I am not putting forth an oxymoronic statement. It was unusual because I was just not expecting a 16 year old to ask me this, after all you are 16, and I wanted to say – GO STUDY. Yet it is perhaps the most common thought that the 16 year olds have today – What is after all the importance of these studies? Our education system is perhaps the one industry that is not KEEPING UP with the super fast train of the future. I do not therefore blame the children for harbouring these thoughts. Yet it is important for us to steer them in the seemingly right direction.

As a parent I just wanted to stop him right there and tell him that there is no SUBSTITUTING EDUCATION. No matter what you think, there are NO SHORT CUTS. More importantly I wanted him to acknowledge my authority as a parent and not argue with me about it, respect my wisdom and believe me because what I say is based out of my numerous experiences. I have seen the WORLD after all.

Sounds familiar???

Well I admit this was my first reaction, and he looked at me, almost as if he was challenging me to come up with these arguments. But I did NOT fall into the TRAP.

He, however, fell into MY TRAP!!

I asked him to convince me that education was indeed going to be useless. He enthusiastically set out on this task.

His very convincing and appropriate arguments:

“I want to become a DESIGN ENGINEER FOR GAMING which is my passion, which no school is teaching. I am already learning the coding language called #%$###$%^ (I did not even understand). I am pursuing a University level course in AI (artificial intelligence – again a grey area for me). Most importantly in school I am wasting time studying subjects that are meaningless for me. They have no impact on my future.

To become someone important in this field I need to come up with something groundbreaking, not study what is being taught, after all that is PAST ITS SALE now( He used so many technical terms that it felt like I was in a conversation with someone at ISRO or NASA).

Did you know that the job we will eventually do in our future do not even exist today, so the PRESENT school and college will not prepare me for them!

(The final blow)Did you know Bill Gates and a million other Tech Guru never went to college!!”

Again – Sounds Familiar???

It was MY TURN!

I got my chance to get THIS GENERATION to listen to me, and I was not going to blow it.

Here is a synopsis:

“Even if I were to agree with you that the present education in school is not preparing you for your future Jobs, it is preparing you for the FUTURE. Schools and university have one very important role to play in your life – that is to prepare you for LIFE. Education while important is but one aspect of it. Interaction with peers, dealing with situations and even facing failures which together form the education that you need to participate in.

The formulas and the technology that you will study here will probably become obsolete, I agree, and yet it is like increasing the number of safety nets. You don’t know when you may fall and which of these nets will come to your rescue.

The classmates are also going to be your competition tomorrow. A good business person always take stock of competition, think of this time as that. Value your competition and also value your accomplices. Each would be equally important in the future. Would you begin a venture before analysing competition?

Dropping out of school will take away a few things. It will steal away the memories that you will cherish for the rest of your life. It will take away the one chance that you will get to form lasting friendships. Are you willing to take it? Think of them as a cultural exchange programme. Learn from everyone around you. If you think the education is not what you need, GET EDUCATED about other things – INTERACT, OBSERVE, PROCESS.

The most important aspect, unfortunately, the world has certain expectations. You will have to live up to that just to ensure that someone LESS CAPABLE than you does not steal the job from right under your nose. He would have a degree that employers can identify with and you DO NOT. That might give them a CHANCE and you may not get any. Do you want to take that chance?

Even in the SHARK TANK the children participants get a deal only if they promise to continue their school/college or the deal is off. These billionaires must know what they are talking about!!

Btw –Bill Gates definitely dropped out – but he dropped out of HARVARD – He scored 1590 out of 1600 on the Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SAT) he had first reached the pinnacle before taking the plunge!!

Mark Zuckerberg – Harvard – developed Facebook while he was there.

So Reach Harvard first!!”

That was my final SET GAME & MATCH!

INDIVIDUAL OR DEVIATION FROM THE STANDARD

Everyday of our lives, we are judged on various standards. Grades in school, Performance at work and even our looks. We are motivated to be someone else – someone conforming to Standard. it is no wonder then that we begin to question our Individuality. If we express our individuality or uniqueness then we are deemed – A deviation from the Average.

“We all strive to be like everyone else – or, even more accurately, we all strive to be like everyone else, but only better. Gifted students are designated as gifted because they took the same standardised tests as everyone else, but performed better. Top job candidates are desirable because they have the same kind of credentials as everyone else only better. We have list the dignity as everyone else, only better. Our uniqueness has become a burden, an obstacle, or a regrettable distraction to the road to success” – Todd Rose, The End of Average

This is one of the questions that I wish my readers answer. Think!

Think really hard and then answer – What do we want for us (if you are a student)? What do we want for our children (if you are a parent?) Is uniqueness indeed in danger because we all want Standard?

So I understand that most people will say that these are one of those questions that have no right or wrong answers. Yet these are questions that require answers, and it is important to find the answer that is Right For You.

Is it right to hide behind the standard because we do not have the strength to battle for the unique?

Is it right that we encourage the standard or the ordinary and then applaud when we see (someone else) extraordinary? Oh yes, but we always add – “he/she had different circumstances”. Sure they did and they faced it and more importantly fought it.

As an education consultant, I encourage students to identify their Skill Pool before they embark on their journey of choosing the best course for them. Skill pool is an attempt to retrospect. Each of us has a different set of skills that we acquire as we go along. Some are even genetic. These together make us UNIQUE. It is therefore extremely surprising that we spend most of our student life and then our youth trying to get rid of this unique feature to try to become the AVERAGE. It does sound like a conspiracy theory to me, does it not?

The Conspiracy is to disregard the Individuality or the Uniqueness. Conspiracy to encourage standardization and make us believe that it’s the best way forward. To recognise and applaud the individuality, the first step is to recognise the flaws of standardisation. If the system recognises the flaws,then the system will have to work to create and alter the existing systems to match the individuality.  Sounds like a lot of work does it not? So what do we do, we carry on with the systems –  not for lack of understanding, but for the sheer magnitude of change that this would require.

We often deem the uniqueness as “Deviation from the standard”. In reality,  it is the deviation from the expectation that we have created as a standard. This standard is, of-course, carefully crafted on basis of many measurements and characteristics. There is no denying that there is a lot of thought and science behind these “Exercises of Standardisation”. Standardised exams, Standardised scores, Standardised course which goes right up-to standardised looks and size too (reserving this debate for another time). As a student, the moment we deviate from these pre-existing standards we are deemed mostly, UNFIT. This – becomes our battle ground.

The Battle – Achieve standard grades in a standard education system studying the standard course in a standard manner. This is where we usually witness the death of uniqueness that the students may harbour in their hearts. How can he take pride in the unique, when you deem him “idiotic” or “useless”? We take away the most important aspect of their lives, their individuality, give them what’s left of it (usually not much) and then ask them to cope. It is difficult to cope in this world with all of your strengths intact, how then does a child cope when you have snatched most of the strength to begin with.

What do you think I am suggesting that you do?  When a student does not perform well in the exams, what exactly is my solution? After all he needs to go to college and he will not make it there with 40%.

My Solution – Fit a round peg in a round cavity or more importantly do not fit a square peg in a round cavity. It will not FIT. Remember that educational toy you got for your 1 year old?

Unlike the 1 year old, we are mostly trying to fit a square peg into a round cavity. When it does not, we use the Hammer. Remember the Hammers? Tuition, cutting down TV Time, I-Pads, confiscate phones, more tuition, more study time, more tuition – all act as the hammer.   And yet, mostly these hammers fail to give us the desired result. The Square Pegs still have the Rough  edges and corners that do not fit into the edge-less circle. What a PITY!!

When it does not fit, we initiate the judgements. Bad grades in class: he must be stupid (for lack of a better word).

When a child does not perform well in the exams, lack of intelligence, is not the cause. There are other causes; we need to look for them. Academic Performance is directly linked to – Academic Perseverance, Growth Mindset, Relevance of Education and many more (I will discuss these in my later articles). It is important to understand this and to find the reason for poor Academic Performance. It could be that we are judging on parameters that are irrelevant to that particular student.

We have, slowly begun to understand the importance of non-standard. We understand that education has to be made relevant to the student if you want the students to truly learn. Some even understand that being non – standard is not a deviation, it is just individualism. Some of the finest institutes across the world envisage the requirement and are working to reinstate the NON- STANDARD. But little is being done, at the moment.

The change also has to begin with us. Like all else, we cannot wait for the government, the universities and colleges to bring about the revolution. We too share some of the responsibility. ENCOURAGEMENT is the key to building the individuality. Encourage your friend, your child, your student when they show signs of individuality. Deviation from individuality should be a point of worry, not deviation from standard.

Look around you, it is the deviation from standard that are remembered not the standard. Take pride in IT. We are not statistics that can be measured with mean, medians and averages. Best way to do that is to beat the Average, not give in to it. Rising above the Average should be your goal. It can be done. You only have to apply your Specialisation!

A Fight for the (Un)AVERAGE

Witnessed a little balloon race by little children the other day. Two kids ran the combination race. Two children – let’s say – Arjun and Bheem. The race was : run to the balloon stationed in the middle of the track. Sit on it to burst it and then run to the other end. Second child repeats it, it was a group effort, I understand, it encourages team effort. Now Arjun ran like lightning, he was so quick to reach the balloon, but he was not that great at bursting the balloon, he was quite sloppy. When it was Bhim’s turn, he was cuddly to say the least and running wasn’t for him. But boy he was quick at bursting the balloon, he gave it one WWF punch and the balloon was completely out. Did they win?

Not really!! Even though Arjun ran the Fastest and Bheem was the quickest. Yeah even then they did not win. Why do you think that was? It was not THEIR RACE to begin with.

Bheem was not the runner, and Arjun was not the burster (I know it’s not a word – but applies). Yet they were put in a race that did not enhance their strengths. I imagine if Arjun ran a flat race he would leave the competitors a mile behind (even in a 100 meters race) and if Bhim were to burst balloons or perhaps had a wrestling match, he would have had no match. They lost a match that wasn’t theirs.

Let us see this objectively, yes there are some advantages to this. The children are learning to run ALL TYPES of races. They are learning the important lesson of teamwork. They are indeed learning that the world will set them against opponents with different abilities and skills. Sure these lessons of life are important and I cannot find fault. After all I too have learnt it the same way. I must have been put up against a competitor; I would have learnt to push myself and win. I apply that every day in my life. I DO!!

Then what am I really complaining about? I am NOT complaining. I am only trying to understand because I fail to understand a few questions? And as we all know – failing is not an option!!

My question:

Why was Bheem not put in a wrestling match and Arjun in a flat race?

Why they were not encouraged for where their strengths lay?

Why not let them gain the confidence with a win rather than face the ridicule with a loss? (Oh yes everyone was laughing when Bheem ran)

Would it not be a valuable lesson to let the children know their strengths before we introduce them to their weaknesses?

Should we teach to identify the weaknesses or should we teach them to apply their strengths?

I do understand that these questions cannot have absolute answers, but yet I am trying to look for SOME answers. How is this related to what I have been saying? It is!

I have, time and again, emphasized on individualism being important. I wish the students are therefore introduced to it at school level. It should not mean that we de-introduce (again not a word) the children from team work or not help them identify their weaknesses, it only means that we FIRST introduce them to their individual strengths and allow them to foster that.

Do the Schools have it wrong? Maybe in a peculiar way!

As an institution in a world that is changing at a blink of an eye, we are still preparing the students by the code of industrial revolution. How many years ago was that, anyways?

So do I have a suggestion?

I do! I am not saying that what the schools are doing is all wrong; I am only saying that there is just a little something more that we can do. Just put the children in THEIR race and see them run!

We are still looking to average out a student while we all know that there is no such thing as an “Average Child”. Like the Norma Study, if we were to make parameters to judge a student and find the closest match to an AVERAGE STUDENT, I am quite certain we will come up with none. So why then, are we so desperate to create an Average Student? Why not rejoice in their individuality and UN-Average (Oxford dictionary says it’s not a word, but should be) characteristics? Let us concentrate on creating an average computer, but let’s concentrate on creating an Individual Student with their strengths and yes, even weaknesses. After which we can venture out and teach them to use their strengths and cope with their weaknesses, but first – IDENTIFY the (UN)Average.

Identifying the (UN) Average requires that we first look at the child in clear light. We must understand and accept that the student may not run like an average runner, may not score Average grades scored by average students, and does not sing like an average singer and….

It means that the (UN) Average sings like a Rockstar but runs like a snail. It means that maybe the UNaverage student debates like a pro but does not understand the chemical formulas. It might mean many more combinations, but not the one we are looking for. So maybe it is time to look differently.

Once we look differently, maybe we can change the TAGS and not put the students in an air tight compartment – of failures. It is a compartment that they cannot break out of for a very very long time. It is time that we celebrate their UNaverage qualities and let them draw strength from them. After all when we lose ourselves to the crooning singer, do we wonder if he can tell us the square root of 156456. DO WE??

The (UN) average can be a good average if you can understand that you are not an average student and do not have an average brain and therefore do not shape your life trying to be AVERAGE. You are not AVERAGE and neither should you inspire to be. When the next test scores tell you that you are like the next average person, Don’t Believe it!!  Fight for the (UN)AVERAGE!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Burden of Ordinary

Being-Ordinary

I met a student last week – A nice kid, had all the right things to say, courteous and friendly. I don’t think he troubled his parents or his teachers much. He must have been one of those kids who submitted work on time, did neat work and even extended help to fellow classmate. Sounds like someone you know?

Well he was all that, so I was pretty confused because the conversation with the parent started on a strange note. They were almost apologetic for their child. So here I was trying to make sense of it all. The grades and reports said nice things about him but the parents seem to have a completely out of sync behaviour. After much contemplation I figured, they were apologetic because their son was an average student, his fault being – he was JUST ORDINARY

The description of the son went something like this:

“He always gets good grades but he does not focus enough to get the stars.

He is a soccer player. His coach tells me that he is a good team player but LACKS leadership Quality.

He plays the guitar. Always the Life of the party, we tried but he does not take it seriously enough to be professional.”

So on so forth, you get the gist right?

“Can you see the trouble here Madam”, asked the mother.

I could NOT SEE THE TROUBLE, not to begin with, but I certainly could now?

The problem was that the child was ordinary, Good but ordinary. The Trouble however was that the parents did not begin to appreciate that.

He would not make star grades; he would not be a professional musician or a soccer player. Effectively he had nothing for the parents to SHOW OFF when they sit over drinks and talk about the achievements of their child. It’s the most sought after social sport – counting the achievement of the child. Sometimes we want this perfect child only to score points in the social sport. Oh yah, all of this in the light of “I do not believe in Pressuring (its the favourite word) the child”

My Daughter can be anything so long as it is Doctor, Engineer or at least an MBA.

She can have any hobby so long as it is Piano, Guitar or Robotics

She can go to any college so long as it is an IVY League.

Does this sound Familiar?

I know the dilemmas of the parents, oh yes I do. I am a parent and I have, pretty much, the same concerns. I am an education consultant and yes I see and feel the excessive competition in the job market. Do I, Therefore, Identify with them? Totally!

But do I agree with them?

I wish I could say TOTALLY NOT. But this is the grey area that most parents live and face. What do I do? Direct the child to excel in everything he does or appreciate and encourage everything he does?

If I were to appreciate being ordinary or mediocrity, what if he relaxes and does not aim to excel?

What if I push too much, what IF he snaps?

The questions that torment most parents are similar but with varied answers.

My question to you is –

Why should a child face the BURDEN OF ORDINARY?

He carries this weight in addition to all the other weights of education, shouldn’t that be enough?

Being ordinary should not be made out to be a fault of the child and then punish him for it. The future is just that – FUTURE but it cannot define everything that we do today. A word of encouragement will go a far way with your child. Why not applaud a race well run rather grumbling over the medal lost?

You might argue that we are not punishing the ordinary just encouraging excelling. There is a fine line there that we as parents often cross. The encouragement often becomes an identification of failure for most students. It highlights all the mistakes that were made and focus from what was done right gets lost somewhere in the MEANINGFUL encouragement talk.

Do you know why you got 85%? It’s because you spent the last day watching a movie.

Do you know why you missed the Soccer Team?  You have been missing the soccer practice for all those parties.

Can you spot the fault?

Actually there really isn’t any! Each child reacts to criticism and appreciation differently. As parents we have to find the right mix and no one else can really guide you with this.

So what I am really trying to do here is to tell you that sometimes the problem is not the child. The problem is the approach. BEING GOOD should be the most important factor. Appreciate the good, applaud the effort and encourage the child to therefore take pride in him/her. By counting the faults or the shortcomings, even in a kind manner, will only lead him/her to doubt himself/herself at every step of the way.

Am I dressed fine? Should I add a scarf?

Should I submit this report or do I need to add another research study?

I have been offered a job with more salary, but it requires me to manage a whole team. Can I do it?

In this last question, the question should not be – Can I? It should be – HOW can I?

Doubts and insecurities will find a way to pollute their minds because we put these notions of DOUBT YOURSELF. There is a difference in doubting your abilities and analysing them. Analysing is a good sign, doubting has a whole new connotation.

Being Ordinary is fine. Being hard-working should be good enough. Don’t carry the burden of being ordinary – look around you it is a commodity hard to get by these days. Appreciate it!!