Stop whining and start improving your child’s Indian education

by neo

Neo’s team at work hears him say at least thrice a day – its important to look for solutions, and follow the Radioshack school of thought – “You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers”.

Reunited

(To the smartass who sent Neo the hoax mass-resignation mail that said – “You’ve got questions. We’ve got new jobs. Goodbye.” – Not funny at all. Neo knows who you are, sucker.)

So instead of reading Neo whine about Indian schools, here are some tips on how to improve your child’s Indian school education experience – so your kid has some chance against Neo Jr when its time to take the SATs.

1. Have a clear, yearly goal

Neo is constantly stunned by how many parents can’t answer the following question – “what precisely should your child know or be able to do at his or her age ?”

Depending on your child’s school to set a curriculum for your child is like asking KFC advice on how to eat a balanced diet (yes they actually have an opinion on that). You the parent have to set goals for your child, and then you use the Indian schooling system as one tool in your child’s overall education.

Reach

For his 4 year-old, Neo uses books like – What your kindergartener needs to know. They provide a comprehensive list of what your child needs to know at a given age. Once you know your goal, you actually have a chance getting there.

Neo has found that Neo Jr.’s school does well for things like Art&Craft, but is woefully lacking in subjects like History (just one example). So Neo uses “What your kindergartener needs to know” to tell Neo Jr stories about Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin (Mrs. Neo is practically a database on Indian history, so Neo sticks to American history – its much shorter, for one.)

Did you know George Washington once cut down a perfectly healthy cherry tree for no other reason but to try out his new hatchet ? Neo Jr. knows this in graphic detail. Also, Neo’s neighbor is complaining about someone hacking away at his new rose garden.

2. Think like a homeschooler

workstation

Mrs. Neo takes so much time to get dressed that Neo reaches every party just as the booze is running out. So he’s always left hanging out with the three sober guys left in the party. And from one such sober guy who just wouldn’t stop talking, Neo learned more about homeschooling than he cared to on a Friday night.

Despite that painfully long introduction, Neo went back and read up on homeschooling. And while Neo thinks that traditional schools are still important for kids to learn social skills, he realized that homeschoolers are actually the best source for figuring out how to augment the school curriculum.

So now Neo recommends finding and joining some good homeschooling forums (there are several lists), just to see what’s going on.

(Next time, Neo will have a couple of drinks before leaving for the party.)

3. English, english, english

Letter A

Neo’s mother tongue is the sweetest and the most elegant language that no one really speaks any more – because half the words have been replaced with English equivalents.

In the past one year, Neo struggles to think of even one example where he could not get by with English in India. Even the drunk (at 11am!) plumber who came to Neo’s house last weekend asked him rather condescendingly “Do you have hammer?”.

English is the language of the future, the language of the intellectuals and the language of the world.

Neo does not want to be misunderstood. Neo is not saying that teaching your kids multiple languages confuses the child (that is a complete myth). Neo has merely decided that speaking in good English is the best use of the finite time that Neo and Mrs. Neo have with their son.

And so Neo’s house is an English-only house. The only time Neo and Mrs. Neo use their mother tongue is when they fight. And even then, its mostly Mrs. Neo talking in the mother tongue, and Neo saying “Yes, but..” every 18 minutes.

Neo Jr. already has superlative English language abilities due to this simple decision. Neo Jr speaks naturally, confidently and correctly in English. Those that understand good English are instantly impressed. Those that don’t are intimidated.

(Yes, Neo’s older relatives disapprove of his English-only communication with Neo Jr (and many, many other things about Neo). But Neo has already told them about several innovative places where they can stuff their disapproval.)

4. Flood your house with good books and supplies

cartoon

Neo cringes at the amount of money wasted in India on toys and fancy clothes for kids that will be thrown in 2 months. Neo has stopped buying electronic toys, because Neo Jr loses interest in most even before the batteries run out. And then it’s back to messing around with Daddy’s office laptop.

Instead, Neo invests in good books and good supplies – e.g paper rolls, crayons, wooden blocks, magnetic alphabets, do-it-yourself kits, quality non-toxic paint, pencils etc. Most of this is not available in India – or maybe Neo hasn’t found a good store yet.

So when Neo travels to the US (they used to fly him business class before the fricking recession – thanks Greenspan), he buys one suitcase full of supplies from good educational supply stores like Lakeshore Learning – that usually lasts him the entire year. Plus he loves the look on the face of the customs official when they ask him “What’s in this suitcase”, and Neo says “Crayons”.

5. Spend time with your kids

Babies away!

In many Indian homes, the kids spend a lot of time with the maids. In Neo’s house, only Neo spends a lot of time with the maids. Not really, all the good-looking and friendly maids get fired quickly by Mrs. Neo. But you get the point.

Malcolm Gladwell lays out the case for “Concerted Cultivation” in his latest book, Outliers. Nothing is more important than spending oodles of time with your kid. So stop reading Neo’s blog and go read the awesome “How do Dinosaurs eat” to your child.

Conclusion

Wow – just follow these 5 tips and your child can be as smart as Neo’s child ? Of course not. There’s much more coming in future posts. But never forget – genetic advantage will always overwhelmingly favor Neo Jr over your kid.

But for now Neo has to make a presentation for the boss that explains why Neo’s team is running behind schedule on a product release that actually removes features. Not surprisingly, this release excites three VPs more than all the actual customers put together.

And Neo already knows what the first slide’s going to say – “You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers”.

All photos are licensed under Creative Commons and linked back to the originals

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