Academic supremacy, it doesn't start in school.

9:50 AM

Being a class topper is the ultimate, hell no, the ONLY goal. Kids go to tuition, math camps and coaching to get that elusive shot at the first place. Never mind that there can only be one lucky soul sitting in that spot.
From it all came the idea that Indian schools are the culprit to blam for all this madness. School are competitive they say...

No offence, but I have an entirely different theory as of where this competitive madness starts. I spent the last 6 years of my life on that turf. It's not the schools, it's the parents.

They call it the mommy wars (because dads seem thankfully more immune to it). It starts the moment you have pushed your precious bundle of joy into this world. They come at you with seemingly innocent questions such as "What was her birth weight?" Only to retort theirs was bigger and taller than yours when you offer your answer. As if there was a tacit race as to who could give birth to the biggest baby out there. It is followed by the breastfeeding vs bottle war. The who crawled at the earliest age competition. Who said their first word first, and then the competition about the degree of difficulty of the first word...a sure indicator of intelligence. Smart babies say "Gleba" as their first word, the dumb one say Dog or Cat.

Once the physical milestones have been hit and all the tiny tots are standing firm on those two legs and starting to talk beyond "gleba" or "dog". Comes the inevitable war on the alphabet. If Chotu Kumar learned his ABC at age 2 and yours is 18 months old you are already a looser. Run to the nearest toy store, buy all the brainy baby toys, and flash cards. Burn that old play mat that has only sheeps and clowns on it and replace it with a ABC mat (yes there is such a thing!) No toddler will go far in life if they haven't mastered the ABC before they figured out it was fun to chase the dog or clog the toilet with stuffed animals.

The mantra is ABC and 123, rinse and repeat until your tots gets sick of it. Then it will be time to quiz them about fruits, vegetables, living things and non living thing while you push them on the swing (yes they need to master these before they figured out how to swing on their own).
It is your duty to compensate for the serious lack of judgement you had deciding not to attend that "Algebra for expecting moms" class that came highly recommended. Face it if you didn't rehash your Square root of X while craving cheese you doomed your unborn child for an eternity its of being stupid...baaaad mommy!

The playground has become a real war zone people! A turf on which mothers (more than fathers) will compare notes, and argue the merit of Baby Eistein over Abacus classes and spend all their energy to quiz their kids on nursery rhymes for the benefit of the other moms more than their kids. Then there is the recipe exchange segment, where you learn how to make "nutrient enhanced" smart Upma or Poha and learn the art of "Designer Idli". You know the ones where you transform them into woodland creatures and smiley faces so your kid will eat them and become smarter because of the added carrots in them. Yeah these!

While the playground is exhausting don't think it stops there. As soon as you leave it with your head buzzing trying to separate your Einstein Idli from your Designer Baby (wait did I mix it up???) it becomes time for your whatsapp to buzz in your pocket.

Because if you have school going kids (yes even playschool) you will be kindly added to the class's group. Groups in which moms all freak out about missed assignments, homeworks and compare notes as to what the kid will go dressed at the next day.
This is how I along with other regular normal moms all got out to shame on a last minute assignment from the school recently:

Kindly dress your child as a fruit, and make them practice a few lines in Hindi about the fruit by Friday. Do not rent costume, they must be homemade.

Never mind the note came on a Wednesday afternoon.

Sane parents run to the nearest store to buy something red or yellow if they don't already have it, then print a fruit clipart off Google image search. And make their kids remember to say things like "Mein Strawberry hoon" "Strawberry lal, mithi aur chota hai". You know because they are 6 years old for Pete's sake!

Overzealous parents will forgo sleep, cut two giant mangoes out of cardboard and mount them on, and make a matching head piece. Then they will calligraphy "Aam" on the mango in perfect Devnagari script...You know just in case anybody will fail to understand that it is indeed a mango.
Then they will make a miniature version of the big mango as a sign on which they will pen a lengthy poem about Aam in Devnagari script. And then snap a picture of their kid wearing it right before boarding the school bus and post it on whatsapp at 7.30 am on Friday so that all of us clipart printing idiots can go and compliment her on her wonderful work. Except none of us did, we were all in desperate need of tea or coffee before tackling other duties.

With parents all too eager to please and prove they are the best and their progeny the most uniquely perfectly shaped snowflake in the whole universe you cannot blame schools for thinking that 6 years old should all be enrolled in Spelling Bee coaching, build a robot camp or the make biofuel out of potato peel and leftover "brainy Upma" workshop.
Thanks to parents who feel compelled to drill their kids about the next year's curriculum during the Summer break, the school are under the wrong impression that kids can do more than what they thought initially. Never mind that the regular normal kids who spend their vacation break playing outdoors and eating non brainy food are going to be the ones looking like total idiots once back to school.

Schools are only competitive because the parents are going crazy.

So, do yourself, your kids and possibly humanity a favour:
Kill whatsapp, burn the flash cards, shred that alphabet playmat and leave those school books in the shelves during holidays. Make boring idli and non brainy Poha and simply simply let your kids play free, you'll be surprised at what they can do.

Beside you'll salvage your own sanity in the process. Life is much too short for all that crap anyway.

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  1. Oh I so agree Cyn! That's why I ended up actually separating my entire regular blog and creating the school one (I feel bad it hasn't been updated) but yes parents need to wake up - there are 300-500 kids in your child's grade, that's just ONE school, do you really think your child will be the topper at AIIMS or IIT? Really? (The link for anyone interested But yes, you hit it on the head. WE DO THIS TO OUR SELVES - and we let the schools do it to us too!

    1. As far as I see, the school's only respond to the hyped expectations of the parents. With many parents it is really hard to get them to accept that 6 years old do not need tuition after school.
      Our school doesn't even give any homeworks during the week, the most I see is one page of math coming on the weekend. But this week the math teacher asked me to come to talk. Turns out she was wondering why many of the other kids could count to 1000 and more and Ishita seemed to struggle past 100. I told her that for a 6 years old, mid 1st grade I didn't see a problem at all or was even worried. I just told her that from what I saw she still seem to have difficulties grasping the concept of adding a zero to go to the next decimal system.

      Upon seeing that I was not going to be the control freak, crazy parents the teacher relaxed big time. I could tell she wasn't quite sure where I stood on academics before. Clearly she has a lot of children who have been drilled and coached over the entire curriculum before the school year started and this kind of kids are a public danger. They skew the entire statistics and disturb the compass a teacher has to evaluate children development. Never mind that most of these kids that have crammed and mugged all Summer long are usually children that are socially impaired and have behavioural issues in school. At the last official parent teacher meeting a month ago I overheard the teacher telling the parents "your son is good in academics, quite advanced, but he really doesn't know how to behave in a group at all and is often misbehaving"

      This kind of statement doesn't surprise me one bit. The sad truth is if you are a class topper and an asshole it doesn't even matter what marks, degrees and what not you have, nobody will want to work with you or even getting you promoted at work.

      People don't seem to realise how vital it is for a child to hone their social skills, probably more important at this age than counting to 1000.

    2. Anonymous9:48 AM

      Happy Ganesh Chaturthi to you and famiy. May Lord Ganesha remove all obstacles from your life.

      As far as being good in academics and social skills are concerned, it is not necessary that those who study do not inter mingle with people. As far as behaviour issues are concerned, these days parents who try hard to being friends often are unable to enforce discipline in them. These parents when they were children hated their parents because they were strict. Thus, when they became parents they wanted to be friendly parents. No harm in them, but you need to know when to put the foot down.

      I do not understand the need for coaching for first or second grade. I have seen parents who do not know what test their children has to appear for tomorrow because it the duty of the tuition teacher. These are lazy parents who do not want to work on their child. I can understand parents who are less educated of coming from different backgrounds resorting to these things but parents who are educated are also becoming lazy.

      I think it has to do with the increase in social activities of an adult India. Earlier, the life revolved around the child now we have lots of things to kill time Whatsapp, Facebook etc. Very good for comunication but time consuming and addictive.

      We picked up our social skills from playground. Nowdays, I find either parents do not have the time to take children to the playground or it is taken up by tuitions. There is not even enough space to kick a ball with cars zipping around. Moreover, nuclear families have become close with single children and parents themselves are sometimes reluctant to let their child mix with other children. Our parents never accompanied us to the ground but we had dedicated playground next to our houses, now you have to go the parks to get some space.

      We do not want to mix with people unless it is about homework or something important. In smaller towns people just drop in and talk and keep up with the social life. No such chance in big cities. The daily commute is brutal.


    3. This was my point, these kids are spending all their time in tuition and not at the playground where they should be learning social skills and behaviour among their peers.
      In my neighbourhood we see the difference between kids who are always outdoors and let to play free and those who aren't. Kids who have been engaged in free play on their own without interfering parents are much better at social interaction, etiquette, and finding ways to compromise between themselves when the other kids don't agree on how a game should be played. They are also better at waiting to talk instead of cutting someone mid sentence than kids that have very little in ways of social interaction with peers in an unstructured environment. Ironically those are the skills that will carry you places in your career but too much tuition, mugging, cramming and academics and not enough play time deprive kids from learning this core essential skill.

      In the corporate world nobody really gives much of a hoot about your school grades, or your being a class topper or not. They want a well rounded person that gets the job done. Not once in his career did my husband had to produce his marks sheet or tell how he ranked nation wide in school. Or how high he ranked in his MBA exam.

    4. Anonymous11:36 AM

      I think grades actually determine whether the person has knowledge about his subject or not. Higher grades does mean that a person is fairly knowledgeable. Once that is out of the way the employers look for experience and abilities etc. If you have bad grades a lot of career opportunities are lost. You may end up in a crappy job or bad college. Unless ofcourse you are exceptionally talented in some skill. This is just for youth who have started their career. It is that much more hard.

      About social skills, different cultures have different methods for obtaining it and there may be different uses for it. We got our social skills as I say from playground and extended family and we did fine. There is no one way of obtaining it.

      In India, the time to become social recluse is the last years of high school when children started preparing for the elusive engineering/medical entrance exams. Then, I admit they get little time to socialize. Parents become walking encyclopaedias of different exams, their cut off percentages etc. It is quiet crazy time for both children and parents. However, this hard work does pays. If not the IIT the next best, even the next best. If you aim for the stars you might just reach the roof, good enough. It is not about the reward but the effort put in. Even parents reconcile with the fact that certain things are not possible. Indian parents are paranoid to certain extent but also practical.


  2. I came by your blog via twitter and I am nodding along like crazy :) Yes, these ridiculous one-upmanship mommy wars don't end , do they? I am sick of making it seem like my kid has to be a part of the cool crowd with those overly done Art projects. I just can't. Not anymore. Time for my mid-morning tea, you see ;)

    1. I love arts and crafts, but I really don't want to waste that energy on these stupid school projects. There are too many of them, and it is only a form of homework for the parent which inevitably ends up in parents comparing notes as to who is a better parent based on how well dressed up the kid is.

      Like you, I care much more about my mid-morning tea, and my other creative ventures, not to mention my oh so precious sanity.


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