Get set go
“Run, run, look at the finish line, don’t look back,” says the eager and doting mother as she cheers her tiny tot in a school race. Little does she realise that she has planted the seed of “The Rat Race” in the child’s mind, even before the child can process what a race really is. Another possibility is that the mother faces/recognises the competition around her—in the job, in the admission to a good school/college, in the train to grab a seat, in the society, to look a little bit better than others, after all she too is part of the race.
The rat race is a product of a flawed education system that has gone unchecked for decades now. Enough and more has been written about how the curriculum was designed to feed the needs of the industrial revolution, a revolution that we have long passed. Currently in this information age, an education system that is still stuck in the past is posing a big challenge not just to the children but also to society at large.
The craziness of the education system
Imagine children getting interviewed at the age of three or four to test their aptitude and make the cut to join a school, isn’t that simply atrocious. IB, CBSE, ICSE, SSC these words drive parents up the wall, choosing a board for your child has become a stressful endeavour, what with parents also competing in the rat race to join the best board, whatever that means, and wanting to look a little bit better than their friends, colleagues and neighbors.
This is just a start of a journey for the child for about 15-18 years, that engulfs him in this ‘cut-throat, you better be the best’ conundrum. Whether it is grades, marks, becoming a class monitor, a prefect, a captain of a team, the head boy and securing the number one rank in academics the child has been turned into machine.
It is no wonder then, that children find solace in playing mindless hours of video games, because they feel so isolated.
Now we have colleges in just rooms, trying to dish out the next crop of competitive exam toppers whose names and photos will be plastered all over town. What happened to college as an institution of molding young minds, when and how did it all turn into an assembly line of students?
Pink Floyd immortalised it with We Don’t Need No Education, alas not much has changed though.
Children have dreams and aspirations, they are beaming with crazy ideas and then school happens. It is unnerving to read about suicides amongst the teen, it is so tragic that an age when they should be building lofty dreams and feel supported, is the age when they are feeling restless, isolated and misunderstood. This is all driven by a well-meaning parent who just wants the best for his or her child. Unfortunately demanding, cajoling a child to be the best in academics so he can land in a good college, so he can land a good job and make money isn’t all that well meaning.
What is the way out?
The argument is that the industry/corporates want star students, so the race is legitimate, makes sense doesn’t it? Well, not quite. Google and a few other organizations have already made it public that education qualification alone isn’t the criteria for hiring, so it is starting, the tide is slowly turning. More and more organizations will adopt this philosophy and slowly but surely, we will produce what the market wants, good human beings. We are in the gig economy and while we may think children are only wasting their time on internet playing games, they are getting exposed to richer and more meaningful avenues to explore and grow their inherent talents into professions. Skill-based learning has become easily accessible and the child is well-informed by his own admission, we should just allow them the liberty to explore and test waters.
Interestingly, the millennials are largely a sorted lot (yes, they have their issues too), they want impact, purpose and meaning in everything they do, they really don’t care for the rat race that much. Truth be told it is their parents’ generation that is actually caught in the rat race at work, so they just want their children to be better equipped to deal with it. The classic generation gap is at play here again.
So, parents, please don’t project your fears onto your children, your children are bright sparks and they will do well in life, just let them be. What is the worst that can happen? he won’t secure an IIT seat, as if that is an end of the world situation, he will be just fine, just trust yourself and your child.
Dear well-meaning parent, as for yourself, try hopping off the race track, the flowers are waiting for your admiration. Remember, “It is such a tragedy; the rat race begins in school and then the rat struggles all his life to get off of it.”