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February 21, 2018 Wednesday 01:17:42 PM IST


Rajagiri Round Table

If anecdotal evidence is any reasonable measure of a cultural phenomenon, parents have largely tended to stay out of their children’s learning process — in the formal sense —either because they do not have the wherewithal, or, as is mostly the case, they have neither the time nor the inclination for various reasons. Times and lives are fraught and it isn’t entirely surprising that parents have either chosen the path of abstention or that of enforcement. The Middle Path is largely non-existent. So life goes on at school and at home regardless.


Is there a transactional relationship between parent and institution, in that, the institution is expected to deliver a finished product at the end of the course because the parent has paid up a substantial sum as fee?


Therefore, has the onus of teaching-learning process been entirely placed on the teacher and the student?


This is not withstanding the fact there is present and clear evidence that children are more successful when parents are involved in their lives not merely in a formal sense. Conversely, teachers, too, are positively affected when parents get involved creatively.


Parents’ involvement also results in affirmative classroom behaviour; children become more diligent; are more organised; and learning outcomes are more clearly measurable.


So, should parental involvement be institutionalised in order to bring about a qualitative change in the teaching-learning process? These were some of the searching questions that the 32nd Rajagiri Round Table sought to shine the spotlight on.


Dr. Rose Varghese, Vice Chancellor, National University of Advanced Legal Studies, Kochi: As we speak, there is a big difference in the quality of relationship that exists between children and parents as compared to the past. There are hardly any meaningful conversations between children and parents and there is little mutual understanding on familial, academic, or cultural issues. A confrontational approach is often the norm rather than the exception. In fact, the parent should reach out and make an effort to understand his or her child in as much as the discussions parents and teachers have should not only obsess about the child’s academic performance but also about other dimensions of the child.


Dr. Sajimol Augustine, Principal, St. Teresa’s College, Ernakulam: Education is not merely an academic exercise, it is also an act of lifelong learning. Parents have a direct role to play in their children’s schooling lives, in fact, an existential role. Co-learning as a practice can help enhance the learning experience of the child and can remove mental or psychological barriers. On the other hand, parents shouldn’t limit their interaction with teachers to concerns about examinations and grades. If necessary they should also seek expert help if their child faces learning issues.


Dr. P. R. Poduval, Former Professor & Director School of Management Studies, CUSAT: Learning is an ‘activity’ for many. But that is not learning. Learning is the after-effect of that activity. Therefore, the residual effect is key here. If  learning is about attitudes, then parents have the most important role to play in their children’s lives. On the other hand, parents cannot be given the right to teach — they are not subject-matter experts. If parents can act as role models, then that is the best form of teaching. In fact, the central role of parents is to motivate their children.


K.L. Mohana Varma, Writer & Commentator: Today, we have any number of children who say they are the victims of their teachers and parents. How have we have reached such a pass? How do we carry out a course correction? This is a question that should concern each one of us as parent, teacher, student, and institutional leaders. Children often complain that parents and children want them to be ‘tops’. So they are put through extra classes, not to forget coaching centres, all made worse by the extraordinary pressure exerted by the parents on the hapless children. Learning in its finest form is a

shared experience.


Geetha Kishore, Senior Lawyer & Office-Bearer, Parent Teacher Association, St. Teresa’s College: As a parent, I would say interacting with children has to be one of the most enjoyable experiences in life. It is not to be trifled with. What do we as parents do? We hand down values. On the other hand, when parents maintain a good relationship with the institution where their child studies, you get a better perspective on vital matters concerning their child. Our PTA functions here in this college as an extended family, constantly supporting one another.


Preetu Nair, Senior Correspondent, The Times of India: There’s a parallel in the debate. Some parents say our children are our friends. But there was a time when ‘listening to’ was a matter of compliance. Did children have a choice in the matter? Not quite. So trust is key here — between parent and child as participants in the child’s learning life. Today learning is unlearning. As far as teachers are concerned, teaching has got to be more than a mere profession — that by itself help transform education substantially.


Dr. Beena Job, Head of the Department of English, St. Teresa’s College: I recall Bobby, one of my first students from years ago, who never bunked the value education classes I ran while she did skip my literature classes even though she was a student of literature. I asked her why. This is what she had to say: ‘Mam, in your literature class, you stood higher, you knew a lot more. In your value education classes, we stood at the same level.’ So when children feel they can relate to you in a situation, where you don’t wield extraordinary powers either of intellect or discipline and treat them with a degree of equity, they become eager learners. Parents, as key stakeholders, could do with a lot more patience. Parental involvement is important, but again, one needs to strike the right balance.


Dr. Varghese Panthalookaran, Professor of Engineering & Director, Rajagiri Media: As a matter of fact, parents and teachers alike learn from children. It is more than mere rhetoric when we say that ‘child is the father of man’. I myself learn from students — I am a student myself. Both parents and teachers have an important mandate: of creating the right ecosystem for children to blossom naturally. Parents would also be well-advised to refrain from overreach, which can be counterproductive. In an earlier era — we still have such examples — there were teachers who would visit their wards at their homes to enquire about their overall well-being.


Arthasery Magdalene, Dept of English, St. Teresa’s College: Both as a parent and a teacher, I learn from my children and am struck by their savvy and I enjoy my role as parent and teacher. Staying up with our children until such and such time is not the thing or necessary. As parents we need to be with them as preceptors or guides or friends for as long as is needed. It has got to be openended. Perfection is neither necessary nor desirable in the relationship, it is creation of the right ambience that matters.


Dr. Priya Nair, Dept of English, St. Teresa’s College: The fundamental problematic is the decontextualisation of education. For example,  nothing is ever said about say the question of rape or gender violence. For education to be complete and meaningful it needs to be rooted in a cultural context and its underpinnings. Motivation is a troublesome word. As parents and teachers, what do we motivate our children for? Is it for money alone? The fundamental question that we need to ask ourselves is if we are creating a generation of repressed children.