An expat parent in Singapore told me last week that the Tiger Mother culture is now so strong that government posters have recently appeared on advertising boards at the side of the roads announcing, ‘Please allow your child to play for at least 2 hours each day’.
However, a recent study by Pearson found that the UK is lagging behind the educational attainment levels in some parts of Asia due to a less ambitious culture amongst parents, to support and drive their children’s educational achievements. Should our parents be setting the bar higher, challenging and expecting their children to achieve more, rather than accepting what some might call adequacy?
In my opinion, children will perform at their best if parents aim to identify a happy medium. Ensure their children aim high, without pushing too hard that they become dis-illusioned and switch off or feel that their child-hood has to some degree been stolen from them.
Developing social skills and emotional intelligence are just as important as the highest academic qualifications. The ability to network and communicate effectively will be just as important to potential employers as exam grades. Replacing with academic tuition too many opportunities to play and socialise with peers, will in my opinion not allow a young person to develop into a well-rounded individual. Could you be a doctor for example, if you have a superfluity of A* grades but are not able to communicate and empathise with people?
Many children will be spending the up-coming summer months attending academic after-school and holiday courses preparing for 11+, 13+ or entry exams for independent schools in the autumn term. Bearing in mind the above, here are a few observations which I hope might help parents to attain a happy balance.
Listen to your current school’s view on potential vs. attainment to date. Set ambitious but realistic expectations and then form a view as to whether they need to be pushed to work harder by extending their working day and shortening their holidays through extra tuition.
Education should always be a partnership between school and home. Taking an active interest in their homework, listening to and encouraging them to read by finding books on topics they enjoy, engaging in conversation about current affairs, going to museums and art galleries together, arranging additional 1 to 1 tuition in areas they are finding tricky, are all areas where parents can offer valuable input to enhance attainment. No parent should hand their child over to the school age 5 and expect to see a fully ‘educated’ 18 year old delivered at the end, with little engagement in what goes on in-between.
Reassure your child that you will not go to bed and cry for a week if they fail the up-coming tests. They must feel you just want them to try their best, even though inside you may feel sick to your stomach.
Support your child by engaging the right type of support with preparation so they don’t feel like a rabbit in the headlights when they enter an exam room, have mastered the study and exam skills and techniques to optimise their attainment and have the right tools to cope with time-pressure and exam stress.
Take a step back from school gate banter and hype by considering your own situation carefully and then doing your own thing as you feel appropriate for your child as an individual. Jumping on the bandwagon may well end in tears.