by Jennie S. Bev
My nephews and niece go to international schools in Jakarta. They enjoy world-class education with a UK-standard curriculum. They are fortunate because more than 11.7 million Indonesian children have dropped out of school. However, does a world-class education guarantee a bright future?
I don’t think so. It takes more than a good education to make a splash.
It is more important to have a well-rounded education, the kind of education that will prepare them for both further education and real life. Also, considering every child is a unique individual, parents should take into account their physiology, personality and learning styles. More importantly, parents should be aware that “true” education does not occur in the classroom but everywhere else outside it.
Making children aware that they must live independently in adulthood would prepare them with a “can-do” attitude. Parents can start with conditioning them. Spoiling them with a nanny or a maid who follows and serves them 24/7 is not a good idea even if it is affordable.
It is an improper parenting technique for employing a nanny or maid as a “substitute parent” because children absorb a lot from their caretakers.
At some level, it is a big plus for one’s future career for having a world-class education early on with English as the primary language. It also prepares them to study overseas and compete with other international students and those with international aspirations. Thus, it is natural for them to have “exclusivity” as their default state.
However, the question is: Does “exclusivity” help with “real life” success? And by “real life”, I am referring to success both within and outside their own circles?
Is it a good idea to enroll your child in an international school, while at home she has a nanny or a maid following every step she takes? Preparing a child for international success, while maintaining a pampered lifestyle, is contradictory.
Conditioning a child to become a successful adult requires years of training him or her to develop a success and growth mindset early on. And it requires thinking and acting independently.
First things first, prior to enrolling your child to the most prestigious school in town, it would make more sense to have a clear picture of the child’s physiological and psychological snapshots. Children who seem “smarter” than others may or may not belong to the “gifted children” category.
And a “gifted child” has different needs to be catered to, given their high intellect (IQ of more than 125), such as high sensitivity, strong leadership, superb creativity and awesome resourcefulness.
Most likely, a gifted child has a strong sense of purpose and direction that other children may lack.
On the other hand, a child who seems “dumber” than others may or may not have: ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder), autism (of various degrees along a mild to severe spectrum), dyslexia (a developmental reading disorder) or simply a lower than average IQ (lower than 100).
Those with any of the above conditions may or may not need so-called “special education”. Interestingly, most international schools in Jakarta do not employ special education teachers and do not have any special facilities to cater for children with special needs. To my surprise, many teachers do not even know how to distinguish those with autism from “normal” children.
Those with more severe physiological conditions, such as cerebral palsy, for instance, require specific physical assistance without any special learning materials. Still, a special environment is required for them to feel accepted and to optimize their learning capacity.
Schools may convert themselves into “inclusive” schools, where all children of various abilities are accepted, yet the teachers should be well trained to teach both “normal” and “special needs” children.
Looking back, I learned self-discipline, social sensitivity, and good manners in a Catholic school where I went from elementary to senior high school.
However, it was the University of Indonesia (UI) that taught me the lessons of “real” life and how most Indonesians must try to survive on daily basis. I learned to survive on less than US$2 per day and took the horrendously jam-packed public buses every single day. I also had to endure all kinds of daily harassment on public transportation.
I learned to live not exclusively, but inclusively. And my college years were such a treasured period in my lifelong learning.
In a nutshell, I learned through unlearning many things and by doing many things in ways that I had never done previously.
Some parents may not realize that what they think is the best for their children may not be so, because many of them forget that education occurs inside and outside school classrooms. The most valuable education often occurs in unexpected places and through unexpected experiences.
Condition your children to be independent individuals, because the world isn’t just an oyster. The world comes with pearls of wisdom and they can be the world’s pearls.
The writer is an award-winning author and columnist based in Northern California. She holds a graduate degree in Education and serves as an advisor to a tuition-free school for impoverished children, the Cugenang School for Gifted Children, in West Java. She can be reached at JennieSBev.Typepad.com.
The Jakarta Post, April 15, 2012