One of Hazrat Ali’s (RA) quotes that I absolutely love is,
“Do not force your children to be like you, for surely they have been created for a time which is different to your time.”
As a parent to a very strong-willed four-year-old, I need to remind myself of this every day. He is the child of NOW; this world, where drive, confidence, out-of-the-box thinking and self-projection are more important than ever before. He is not the child of yesteryears where obedience, compliance and conformity were valued more than outspokenness and divergence.
Please understand that I am not saying that obedience and respect are old values, ready to be done away with completely. All I am saying is that children today, just like Hazrat Ali said, are born in a different time, in a different world order and require different strengths.
If you look around you, education and schooling has also taken note of these changing dynamics and schools are trying to adapt and adjust to the changing requirements. There is more focus on activity-based learning, debates are encouraged, students are expected to participate in more hands-on learning versus textbook learning and social skills are honed at every stage. Of course, since it is always arduous to maintain a balance between ‘holding on’ and ‘letting go’, some essentials seem to be getting lost in this transition while some absolutely phenomenal ones are developed. So, we asked some parents about their take on education in their time versus education today; and this is what they had to say:
Mariyah Arif, a mother to three adorable kids, said,
“Well, I’d say that children today get a more all-rounded education than we did. They have so many opportunities for extracurricular activities and it’s amazing that these are not just for ‘fun’ but that it is now recognised that they play an equally important role in their growth and learning.
However, I also feel that education today is so so stressful – for both, children AND parents. The pressure to start sending your kids to school or ‘mom-and-tot’ programmes or SOMETHING from an early age and be cookie-cutter kids even at that age! Average schooling age in Pakistan (or Karachi at least) has gone from three or four years to 1.4 years whereas, around the world it is increasing to six or seven years!
And not just starting age but even what they are expected to KNOW at that age. I started school at three years whereas, my kid should be able to write his name at that age! At the age that I ran around climbing trees, my kids have to WANT to stand in line, WANT to stop playing and go back to studying! Seems ridiculous, doesn’t it?”
Hina Shamsi Nauman, a mother to three boys, says,
“Schools today are better to look at – the buildings are more structured and many have air-conditioned classes and up-to-date IT labs. Students today are more confident I feel, because they get a lot of exposure to public-speaking, on-stage performances and so on from a very young age (in some schools from kindergarten). So, I thing ‘people fear’ is something that schools today are handling very well and hence, students today are more social and have better people skills than we did.
However, with all the social and presentation skills students are being equipped with today, I feel they lack some basic life skills that we were taught even in school. I remember when I was in school we had basic survival classes where we learnt how to sew a button, hammer a nail and change a plug or light bulb. Nowadays if I ask my sons to do something similar, they balk at me. Kids today have NO clue of these basic skills and learning today is more ‘career-centric’ than before.
But one thing that remains constant is the poor condition of toilet hygiene in schools. In our days, school bathrooms were ALWAYS in bad shape; there was no concept of a dustbin to dispose off sanitary items, no soap, no toilet paper and the stench was unbearable! And now my kids complain of the same condition in their school bathrooms. You’d think that the fee hikes would result in better bathrooms and sanitation! I honestly don’t know what the domestic staff or ayahs do all day!”
Recently, in a discussion among friends, one friend (not yet a parent) pointed out that children today are too brazen, almost to the point of being disrespectful towards their parents and other elders. She said (and rightly so) that she sees parents trying to please their children too much these days, often to the point of walking on tip-toes around them. The discussion got somewhat heated with everyone having a different opinion but she conceded when I asked her if her relationship with her husband was the same as that between her mother and father.
Was she as respectful, submissive even, as her mother had been towards her father?
Did she sacrifice her own wants, needs and sometimes even personality traits for her father’s preferences?
She was silent as she contemplated my questions and then, quite begrudgingly, she admitted that she had a much more open and egalitarian relationship with her husband as compared to what she had seen between her parents.
So, I ask you, if the nature of relationships – that between a husband and wife or a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law or even grandparents and grandchildren has changed over time, isn’t it understandable and even ‘expected’ for the relationship between children and parents as well as other grown-ups they interact with, to transform as well?
Going back to our survey, we asked another mother, Asfa Shafqat, about her thoughts on education now as compared to in her times and she opined,
“I find schools today to be more progressive than in our times. There is more two-way communication with students as compared to a more regimented approach when I was in school. These days, schools try to tap the child’s abilities and strengths rather than use a blanket approach for all. They give students more room to grow.
Having said that, I feel that our generation was more disciplined than children today. Schools were more stringent about their rules than they are now which I suppose, helped us be more organised and self-sufficient than I see kids today.”
Mehtab Danish, mother to four boys, had something similar to say,
“Nowadays learning is more activity-based and creative. Teachers have different mediums at their disposal to get the point across and students learn with a more hands-on approach and hence, I feel that they have more fun which obviously makes them grasp concepts more easily than we did. The teaching approach is also more accommodating, I think, towards students of varying competencies which is extremely important.
But one thing I find much worse now is the rat race. In our times, apart from a few elite schools, nobody was pestered about their grades and accomplishments. Whether you did O-Levels or cleared grade 10 through the Matric system, you weren’t looked down upon.”
I suppose then, it is true that we cannot, or rather should not, force our children to be like us for they are born in a different time. All we can do is try to give them roots to keep them as grounded as possible while at the same time giving them wings to fly to their potential!