By Dr. Channa Ratnatunga (Sunday Times)
It has become the norm for both the print and electronic media. to vie to highlight those coming in the first few places at National exams, like the Year five, O’ level and A’ level. There is no doubt that in these intensely competitive national exams, the children and their parents, both seek an excellent, performance-based result. I have no issues with those children who achieve such great academic heights. My objection is to the ensuing approbation in the media. I feel there are “raisons d’etre”, not to do so.For every student getting accolades for reaching such academic heights, does one pause to think how many young ones feel that they have let down their parental expectations. How many would suffer mentally, and feel they are without talent? We see in the same media that some children are so distraught that they have taken their own lives and also of parents inflicting corporal punishment on the child. But these often go unreported. Cartoon added by TW from internetWe ask ourselves, why so much media and national hype? Who benefits from such hype? Once upon a time in the good old days we did not know or care, who came first at these National exams except that the Education Department would send you an information sheet on that score. If you really did well, whatever award given would be intimated but not publicised. One went to the Institution this success entitled you to but with no hype. This I feel, is a healthy attitude.
I say this because, if one were to take an audit of most Dons in our Universities, they probably would not fit the bill of “ prize types” at school. Many of them are late developers, who suddenly found their metier in their subject, which encouraged them to positively seek more knowledge and experience and eventually excel. A fact that I hope would inspire the lesser non-hyped mortals of our early educational ecosystem–Children, parents and teachers alike–all is not lost! Cartoon added by TW from internet
I find that these accolades given to children who score well with their three R’s, Reading, wRiting and aRithmatic, fail to give due recognition to many children with innumerable innate talents, and skills that lie hidden, for want of recognition by parents and teachers. The talents and skills that are so important to be recognised and given due place, for the proper development of the child’s psyche. A perceptive teacher should spot and mentor such talents, given the fact that they are with the children for at least a year. Talents like the prowess at Sports, Music, Singing and Arts and Drama are patently obvious. Schools and parents normally identify these abilities and give the child an opportunity to participate and try their best to excel in these recognised fields.
However some talents like empathy, social ability, altruism, innate honesty, courage, determination, loyalty and the like are not readily recognised .They are valued in the corporate sector. Some of these talents, when picked up by corporate management and developed, may lead such individuals to rise fast along the corporate ladder.
Yet other talents require opportunity. Like entrepreneurship, which often goes it is said in families. Actually they are children who have imbibed the attitudes of their parents, who probably are people prepared to take a calculated risk. It is a talent, which we in this country must encourage, a very valuable mindset. For it is of great advantage to any society. Having an ‘Unemployed Graduates’ Union’ highlights the contrary in this context. It illustrates the paucity of entrepreneurship, among the members of this tribe. For, they who have received an University education, should have realised that they have trained minds. There is such great sponsorships for start-ups for SME’s, with many institutions providing microfinance facilities. Waiting for a role cultured secure government: job is an insult to such an education. They just lack this “get up and go” motivation.
Another talent is creativity. Be it academic, or inventive, it is probably the most precious talent of all , needing a delicate nurture, without parental or haltered educational suffocation. It is the key to human advancement. We see now, that the Govt; at long last recognised its worth.
Those who are in the know, have recognised a community of children and young adults, even in this country, who are addicted to video games. This community especially among schoolchildren is an ever growing threat to a healthy life style. It has been shown in countries like South Korea, Japan, China etc just to mention some of those in Asia, the children are mostly those who have faced parental neglect or rejection. They seek an outlet which, their perceived skill in the video game will they hope , grant them some form of peer identity.
The children, it must be recognised at this stage of their life , especially in their teens seek both parental approval and a peer identity. Recognition of their worth goes a long way to develop their self confidence. Those adults, who are unaware of this potential range of such talents and skills , could unfortunately, unwittingly curb the growth of the same in their children. National approbation of those who do well in the three R’s, neglecting the potential in others, in my view is unfair and unhealthy in these youthful age groups.
We live in a modern day with the cult of superheroes tickling the child’s mind. Would it not be farfetched to imagine that they would, in their dreams hope to emulate some of them. Don’t make their childhood tainted as an underachiever or ostracise them by our insensitive values. It’s too precious a commodity for the country to lose. Let’s stop this commercialism of our children. I hope I have managed to convince you not to stick to the three R’s, for you will tread on, the blooming psyches of so many delicate buds that dot this fertile land of ours.