Three questions parents should ask their child’s school

                                <h2 id="story-summary-0">As parents, anxiety about your child's education can be very real.  Asking the school some of these questions can help you take better action.</h2>
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                                        As parents, one of our most important responsibilities is to educate our children and prepare them to face the world.  In principle, this process should be a wonderful journey for the child, one that explores curiosities, makes discoveries, develops new skills and realizes talents, while we watch with joy, pride and satisfaction.  In reality, however, many children do not enjoy school or studies, and for most parents, their children's education can be a source of stress, self-doubt and guilt.  While anxiety is inevitable, is there a better way to manage it?

A research study on the experience of Chinese parents with regard to their children’s education identifies three types of ‘Parental Educational Anxiety’ (PEA). The first is “overwhelming anxiety” arising from the excessive and competitive desire to perform academically; the second is the “stunned anxiety” that emanates from a range of difficult and confusing choices that a parent has to deal with, and the third is the “imaginative anxiety” that arises from an almost blind belief that a possible failure in parenting it will adversely affect every major life event or milestone—job, marriage, destiny, future. These types of anxiety are also true for parents in India, and there can be other types as well.

One way to manage this anxiety is to become more involved with your child’s school. Our children spend nearly half of their waking time in and out of school. While schools can have their limitations, schools and teachers are often a treasure trove of information about your child’s interests and development. Such information, even if not readily visible or available, should be sought after.

Many parents spend a lot of time securing admission for their child, but after that, they routinize their involvement or even withdraw. As one school principal told me, “It’s like posting a letter in kindergarten and picking up the package after Grade 12.”

Where is my son?

It is essential to have a realistic and factual view of where the child stands academically and his developmental readiness. Although the teachers may not be very articulate or approachable and you may need to speak with more than one teacher, they know a lot about your child. Searching for details by subject, topics, classroom behaviors, exceptional observations, positive or otherwise, will be very helpful. It can also give you a better sense of your child’s latent gifts and talents. The root cause of parental anxiety about education is an excessive “expectation gap” between the child’s actual performance and the parents’ arbitrary expectation of achievement. This can lead to unrealistic increase inputs (e.g. multiple monthly fees), reducing game time, increasing stress and thus causing boredom, fear and learning aversion – essentially this will mean the exact opposite effect of what is intended by parents. Optimizing the expectation gap can help start a journey of constructive action

Which actions would be most helpful?

Specific knowledge of the challenge or opportunity your child faces can help you take more appropriate action. The problem may be subject-specific, behavior-specific, or context-specific. We tend to talk within the family, with friends or with other parents. Including teachers in these conversations can increase the chances of answering the right call. For example, if your child is falling behind in math, it doesn’t necessarily mean “let’s study math”. Is it just a matter of discipline and more practice that you could supervise? Is the challenge more conceptual that some online or offline resources could help with? If it’s about personalized attention, perhaps tutoring in a smaller group, or one-on-one, is the way to go. In other cases, the child may have specific needs or challenges, which may necessitate a specific specialist or medical diagnosis. This is obviously beyond the capabilities of teachers, but detecting patterns early is something they can help with. be blind to. This includes inadequate sleep, eating unhealthy snacks, bullying or harassment, bad habits or influences, or even your own parenting behaviors. If you solicit feedback and give them space to share it openly, you’ll likely find out more and take decisive corrective action.

How are teachers improving and getting better?

The third question is not about your child, but about the school and the teachers themselves. If children are to become thoughtful, curious, and confident learners ready for an increasingly demanding world, outdated practices need to be updated quickly. Combining an inspiring teaching methodology with a focus on rigor or excellence is not easy. Many schools err on one side or the other: either they remain with “zombie” methods of reading-routine-copy-test; or swinging the other extreme of promoting themselves as ‘new age’ schools and emphasizing project-activity-exhibition but missing out on conceptual rigor and excellence. As parents, you should know what kind of training the school has recently done for its teachers and whether there have been any changes in its methods over the past five years. Asking the school administration about its educational philosophy, recruitment practices and approach to teacher development is also helpful. These questions are not about the school’s infrastructure, hardware, or credentials; they are about teaching and learning – their bread and butter. And as parents, if you don’t ask these questions, who will?

My work as an educator has taken me to thousands of schools and teachers over the years. I learned to value the knowledge that resides there, as well as the various opportunities for improvement. Being able to take advantage of this ecosystem – despite its challenges – can help us as parents to better help our children. In the process, we reduce our own stress and channel it more productively.

Ashish Rajpal is the founder and president of XSEED Education, based in Singapore.

Three questions parents should ask their child’s school

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