There is a generalisation that Asian children are forced to study much harder than western children. Obviously there would be many exceptions to this rule but there certainly does appear to be a lot of truth to it.

Some people would admire the Asian parents for forcing their kids to work hard and point out that they become the doctors and lawyers of the future.

Some, however, would castigate these parents for robbing their kids of a proper childhood. In Australia, where I come from, I know many western parents value sport highly and would much prefer their children to be throwing a ball than trying to top the class in maths.

This last viewpoint really annoys me even though I’’m a lifelong sports fan. I agree that sport has a role to play in kids’ development, for loads of reasons, but chiefly because it is fun. I also think that some kids are worked far too hard academically. There has to be a balance. But on the whole, western parents in Australia do not imbue enough of a love for learning in their children.

Sport is fun. But so is maths, so is English, so is science, so is history, so is geography. Using one’’s brain should not be regarded as a chore or something for nerds only –as it is in some quarters.

I once heard an ex-footballer laughing at the idea that anyone could enjoy chess. On the surface of it may look a boring game. Yet I remember playing my uncle as a child. He was better than I was, and time after time would beat me. One day, however, I exploited a poor move he made and went on to beat him – and the satisfaction of that memory warms me to this day, some twenty years later.

The satisfaction of using your brain to solve a maths problem can be as exhilarating as kicking a goal. Reading a wonderful book can be a devastatingly exciting experience. The excitement of finding out who will next be eliminated in a reality tv show fades into nothingness when compared to learning how man landed on the moon, the horror of World War I trench warfare or even the great political moments of your country.

Our species has continued to develop at an ever faster and more amazing rate. From the birth of civilisation only a few thousand years ago, through to the industrial revolution, to the modern wonders of science, medicine, transport and communications, our achievements are simply stunning. Make sure that you raise your child to appreciate the joy and splendour in humanity’s’ achievements, to experience the wonder of learning, the challenge of solving, the ability to think critically and maybe to one day contribute themselves.

They will thank you for it too. When your son is trying to impress an intelligent girl at a party, he’’ll be given short shrift if it is clear from the moment he opens his mouth that the most intellectual game he’’s ever played is Hungry Hippo. When your daughter attends a work trivia night and impresses everyone with her knowledge of history and geography she’ll think back with great fondness on nights you spent with her looking at a globe of the world or watching a history documentary.

Knowledge is a joy in itself – not to mention the undoubted career success it can bring. And after you’’ve finished doing a few maths puzzles or spelling words with your child, by all means grab a bat and a ball and head down to the park and enjoy.

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