All children are gifted, some just open up later
One cannot be a teacher and a pessimist at the same time
K.P. Gopalakrishna of Bangalore is a living legend. In 1959, he started the National Public School (NPS) in Bangalore. Over the years, as NPS branched out, first in Bangalore and then overseas, its reputation grew. But it also came in for some criticism as Gopalakrishna focussed on churning out engineers and scientists. There was poor emphasis on liberal arts and extra-curricular activities; the school came to be known as a factory.
Then came the 1980s and a change of guard began. Bindu Hari, who started taking over, is a second generation educationist and entrepreneur, and is also Gopalakrishna's daughter. Today, the NPS institutions have an enrolment of over 10,000 students and employ a staff of 2,500. I want to know about Bindu's vision and seek her advice for parents. "A fundamental belief that underpins all we do at NPS is that all children are gifted, some just open their packages later," Bindu says. "Our vision has changed over the years.. Indian students in the 1980s possessed a strong work ethic and a sound foundation in mathematics and science; they demonstrated originality in thinking but lacked the ability to convincingly articulate their thoughts and ideas. To overcome this, the NPS vision, which was academic excellence in the 1970s and 1980s, evolved into academic excellence and holistic development of every child."
Today, the transition is in progress; NPS kids are becoming poets and playwrights, as much as great engineers and doctors. Bindu is in charge. In the year that she herself graduated from NPS, of the batch of 120 students, 119 became engineers and all 119 settled down abroad. Bindu studied to become a teacher and she decided that she would stay back. If she doesn't tell you that her doctoral work was on physical chemistry, you may think the 42-year-old studied English literature.
She is suave, articulate and optimistic. I try testing her with issues like the trivialisation of education in society. I get her into a dreary conversation on how the moral fabric of the nation is torn. She dutifully engages in the conversation, but also reminds me that one cannot be a teacher and a pessimist at the same time.
"So, what does it take to run a great educational institution where academic excellence and administrative acumen must co-exist?" I ask.
"It is about building a collective vision, a sense of purpose and the need for identity. It is about constant communication," she replies.
"Bindu, tell me about parenting. How we can be better parents to our own children?" I ask her.
She tells me about six key things every parent must know so that their child can become an effective CEO of his or her own life.
Like a dutiful tenth grader, I write my lessons down.
Lesson 1: A career consumes 70 percent of our waking hours and a youngster unhappy in his career, is unhappy in life. Parents must avoid thrusting their unfulfilled dreams and ambitions on their children. There are innumerable career options available to youngsters today. Parents should encourage youngsters to follow their dreams.
Lesson 2: All comparisons are odious. A 9th grade student when compared unfavourably to his sibling said to his father defiantly, "You are a VP in an IT company, you haven't accomplished much, just look at Bill Gates".
Lesson 3: Good parenting is about being a good role model. A child's reaction in the face of disappointment, adversity or frustration is often a reflection of a parent's mode of expression in similar situations. Anger or calmness, loss of courage or stoicism, temperance or annoyance, generosity or selfishness is learned behaviour modelled on parental behaviour.
Lesson 4: We heard a father say about his 14-year-old son "We are like strangers in the same house". Listen to your children for the first 10 years of their lives so they will listen to you for the next 10 years of their lives. The first decade is critical for building relationship with your child. Keep communication lines open with your teenager, no matter how poorly behaved your teenager is. Remember, your child has nowhere else to go, other than family.
Lesson 5: Parenting is not a popularity game. If you haven't said "no" to your child and denied your child a wish or two, then you are probably not doing a very good job as a parent. A parent who never denies a child anything is likely to have his child grow up with a sense of entitlement. Besides, child psychology has revealed that children who are able to postpone gratification are more likely to be successful in life.
Lesson 6: Helicopter parenting is a new phenomenon demonstrated by the overzealous, overprotective, overindulgent parents in nuclear families. Children need the space to make mistakes and time to grow. Tough love, clear behavioural expectations - boundaries, and holding the line - healthy neglect are recommended for children to take initiative, develop responsibility and competence in everyday skills.
I am absorbing her words. I am also thinking of what Peter Drucker would say about these six rules. That they equally apply to the task of raising a business in an age in which learning must be at the heart of the enterprise.