‘Tiger par­ents’ do no good to kids’ de­vel­op­ment

Global Times - Weekend - - OPINION - By Liu Jianxi The au­thor is a re­porter with the Global Times. li­u­jianxi@glob­al­times.com.cn Page Ed­i­tor: wang­wen­wen@glob­al­times.com.cn

Dig­ging through kids’ school bags, look­ing up all the as­sign­ments, sit­ting be­side them go­ing through each item, and fi­nally hav­ing all the home­work checked with a name signed is a daily rou­tine for most Chi­nese par­ents, as re­quired by teach­ers. An ar­du­ous task es­pe­cially af­ter a long day’s work at of­fice, isn’t it? Luck­ily, some par­ents in Jin­hua, Zhe­jiang Prov­ince, have been lib­er­ated. A lo­cal pri­mary school re­cently an­nounced that par­ents will no longer have to sign their names on their kids’ home­work, as stu­dents should be re­spon­si­ble for their own as­sign­ments.

To be hon­est, kids, in­stead of par­ents, are the prime ben­e­fi­ciary of this pol­icy. Is it re­ally love and re­spon­si­bil­ity that par­ents check and make sure all an­swers are cor­rect be­fore re­turn­ing the as­sign­ments to school? Ob­vi­ously not.

Mak­ing mis­takes is an in­dis­pens­able part of the process of un­der­stand­ing. Who cares how much you have scored in your home­work af­ter you have set­tled down in life and found your bear­ings? The abil­ity to re­al­ize one’s mis­takes and learn from it is what mat­ters, which is also the main pur­pose of ed­u­ca­tion. Why not give stu­dents a chance to find out and cor­rect their mis­takes them­selves?

Worse still, par­ents’ daily su­per­vi­sion is send­ing a sub­tle mes­sage to chil­dren that it’s bet­ter to be right than in­de­pen­dent. The loss will out­weigh the gain if kids are un­con­sciously “ed­u­cated” to be re­liant on oth­ers for their so-called good per­for­mances.

With un­due im­por­tance at­tached to high scores, stu­dents have grad­u­ally learned to turn to oth­ers to get the an­swers right with­out in­de­pen­dent think­ing. What’s the point of high scores in this case? Only a few can re­mem­ber a spe­cific piece of math­e­mat­i­cal con­cept af­ter grow­ing up. The process of in­de­pen­dent learn­ing is much more im­por­tant than the knowl­edge it­self in kids’ de­vel­op­ment.

Ad­mit­tedly, there are a large num­ber of par­ents who are will­ing to play the role as the teacher – not only go­ing through every item of the as­sign­ment, but also try­ing to in­spire kids to think in­de­pen­dently. De­spite such good wishes, most par­ents are not teach­ers. Know­ing a sub­ject doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean be­ing able to pass on that knowl­edge to oth­ers, and ef­forts to in­spire kids to think in­de­pen­dently may in­stead dampen their en­thu­si­asm for study­ing. Good wishes may not bring about good re­sults. This is not with­out rea­son. A New York Times study on Amer­i­can fam­i­lies over three decades from the 1980s to the 2000s sug­gests that most forms of parental in­volve­ment “yielded no ben­e­fit to chil­dren’s test scores or grades” re­gard­less of so­cioe­co­nomic stand­ing or eth­nic back­ground. What’s worse, when parental in­volve­ment does seem to mat­ter, the con­se­quences for kids’ per­for­mances are “more of­ten neg­a­tive than pos­i­tive.” Chil­dren who started off as high scor­ers ended up do­ing worse with parental in­volve­ment. Ironic, isn’t it? It is by no means par­ents’ duty to go through the kids’ as­sign­ments. Schools should stop ask­ing par­ents to in­ter­vene and even sign their names on each item of the as­sign­ments. The pri­mary school in Jin­hua has set a good ex­am­ple. What par­ents are sup­posed to do is to cre­ate a friendly study­ing en­vi­ron­ment for kids, and teach them to be re­spon­si­ble for their own work. Af­ter all, in­de­pen­dent learn­ing is much more im­por­tant than high scores.

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