CO-LEARNING WITH PARENTS
In my academic career of over three decades, I have
obviously attended a few hundred seminars, symposia, workshops,
and round tables, but this has been by far one of the most pertinent and significant topics being addressed for the welfare of the growing generation.
My first premise is that today there is a huge difference in the relationship that exists between children and parents as compared to the past. Today, conversations between children and parents are fraught. Both stakeholders call it the generation gap, where there is little mutual understanding on familial, academic, or cultural issues.
When we talk of learning, are we talking of book knowledge or table manners or respecting our elders, including teachers? Or are we talking of modesty? How do you define it? For example, the older generation, the present, and the future generations have different perspectives on the very concept of ‘modesty’.
So who teaches and who learns from whom? Who accepts what the other teaches?
Parenting is,in fact, a significant, yet vastly underrated, learning process. Given the circumstances today — children’s increasing, often obsessive, preoccupation with screens of various sorts and the decreasing dialogue between parents and children around the dining table where once there used to be laughter and conversation—learning needs to be regarded as a lifelong process, where learning begins at home. In fact, we would do well to recognise that parents too need help in this process — in essence co-learning. It is equally the case that cultural conditioning lets parents assume they know it all.
CODE AND CODE BREAKING
If we were to draw up a code of conduct for students today as to what are the acceptable norms at home or at an institution, do we involve parents? Will children want parents to be involved? Let’s look at what usually ‘transpires’:
Once a child is admitted into school or college, many parents tend to leave the learning process to the teachers or the institution. They do not either have the time or the inclination to oversee their children’s studies — not entirely blameworthy reasons. A number of parents feel that once the fees have been paid, the institution is expected to deliver a ‘finished product’. However, we aren’t talking about products, but about flesh and blood creatures who are expected to be our collective future.
Textual/theoretical learning or teaching is one thing. But the parents’ role in motivating their children is inarguably a fundamental given. There is clear evidence that children are more successful when parents are involved in their studies and lives while teachers will be positively motivated by parental involvement in ways more than one. Co-learning is more to do with deepening interaction with children and fostering responsible adulthood.
Today, it is important we institutionalise the link between the schools/universities and parents in the matter of parenting and co-learning. Who takes the initiative? While this cannot happen overnight, the process needs to be thought through carefully without creating another institution with its own power structures and presuppositions. It calls for breaking new ideological ground.
The central aims of education are to mould a student into a good human being and to train them to be down to earth and practical in facing the realities of life. More so in nuclear families, where both parents, because of their own preoccupations, are unable to devote enough time to the children.
Therefore, as with anything else in life, institution-building is one of the foundational conditions in building a better world of learning, where parents, teachers, and students coexist meaningfully and in relation to one another in the fullness of things.However, as Robert Frost says, “We have miles to go, before we sleep”.