Raising kids to excel in academic pursuits

I long suspected that parents’ academic background and home environment had a link with how their kids would perform in schools. This is not based on research-based proof but more of anecdotal evidence of what I am going to say.

I taught in Temasek Polytechnic before (1992-2012) and I noticed that children of some of my teaching colleagues were achieving successes in their education. One was even awarded the President’s Scholarship. My hunch was validated when I read a TIME’s article titled “The Secrets of Super Siblings” by Charlotte Alter (5 September 2016 edition). In it the writer studied nine families who raised children who all went on to extraordinary success. Of the six common traits of these families, one includes family having an educator parent. Seven out of nine families had a parent who was a teacher. The second trait was that the children had a free-range childhood (freedom than strict family rules).

As an educator, I know the importance of a good education. I also know the importance of continuous interest in learning after formal education. We did well in schools and in our careers before taking up teaching positions so that we can equip ourselves to teach and to impart our love for learning to our charges. These same attributes were applied in our home environment. Children follow by examples and parents are the greatest influence on their behaviour.

The second aspect of free-range childhood is also important. No kid would like to be forced to do something she absolutely hates. I remembered that my daughter took no pleasure in piano lessons. We went to the extent of renting a piano and took her for lessons. After a few lessons, we stopped and returned the piano. We let her choose her pace and did not subject her to tuitions. (Though we tried a few Chinese tuition lessons and that was stopped too.) So my daughter coped without tuitions and still did well.

I talked about this with my daughter and she said that another aspect of doing well in examinations is mastery of examination techniques. Allocating sufficient time for each question is one example. Before talking about examination techniques, one must be well prepared for each paper. Time management of revision of subjects is also important. One last point is personal effort and love to study must be in place. Good results do not drop from the sky.

As educator and parent, we try not to stress our kids. I think this is critical. Too much stress can be counter-productive and can be a turn-off.

This coming Friday (2 September) is Teachers’ Day. I wish all teachers and educators a Happy Teachers’ Day. You are the ones that students learn from.

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