We live in an era where parents start thinking about which school they ought to enrol their child into even before the child takes birth. Even if the parents aren’t, the family circle and the society puts constant pressure on them to find an answer for it. What we always forget is that humans are born curious. If we as parents and educators channelize their curiosity in the right direction, they will eventually become self-learners. Having said that, there are certain skills that we need to equip them with and direct them in their pursuit of learning.
Every species on Earth has a way to communicate. When we talk about good communication skills, it is not a reference to learning to speak English (or any other language) fluently. It is a skill with which a child can communicate their ideas effectively so that it is understandable by the receiving party. Communication media are aplenty. Right from sign language, speaking, writing, drawing to even video making. A lot of world problems would be solved if we communicate clearly.
There is no doubt that reading is the best way to learn anything. To equip children with this skill, we need to catch them young. Start by reading out stories to them. Read books in front of them. Get them short-story books that you and your kids can read together. There are plenty of articles on the internet on how you can inculcate the habit of reading in children. Here’s a nice article from Scholastic that you can refer to.
Learning how to learn
This is a critical skill that is not taught anywhere. Neither at school nor in college! Isn’t this a primary skill that every child should know? When we were children we had to figure it out on our own. On a personal note, I figured out how to learn only after picking up this course on Coursera.
Sleep, exercise, and other physical activities play an important role in retaining what one learns.
It is important to do spaced repetition to understand a concept thoroughly rather than cram it in before the day of the examination. These techniques are all proven by science.
Until I took that course, I did not know that there were strategies and techniques to learn better. If you already know all these learning techniques, teach them to your children. If not, take up this course (it is free) along with your child, and equip your child with science-backed learning methodologies.
A child gets to take a major decision (at least in India) only when they are in their 10th grade. They have to decide whether to take Math with Computer Science or Math with Biology. And, if they end up scoring less, they pick commerce. This decision is based either on parents, teachers, or their peers. The child does not make a decision based on his love for learning. Consider us, the students in the 2000s. We had only two options – Engineering or medicine. We didn’t even know about the existence of other streams. It took 4 years of painful experience to realize what we want to do. I would like to bring out another example – Choosing a life partner or getting married. More than 50% of Indians get married because of family and peer-pressure.
Decision making is a skill that should be taught very early on in childhood. Let your child make decisions. They may not make the ‘right’ decisions at the first go. But they will learn by doing it repeatedly and deliberately. Start small, like letting them choose their clothes. Once you think they can make their own decisions, help them in reasoning out their choice through simple pros and cons.
Problem-solving is more of an attitude rather than a mere skill. This can easily be learnt in day-to-day life and even through games (both real and virtual). Start giving your child simple household problems even if you know to fix it by yourself. It can be as simple as defrosting your refrigerator or fixing your forever-slow-ceiling fan. Wherever possible, tell them why this is a problem and what are the outcomes of solving that problem.
Is that all?
“What about computer programming? What about robotics and AI? Aren’t these 21st-century skills? Shouldn’t my child know all these to face the world?” you may ask.
Well, yes. These skills can be learnt under a mentor or even be self-learnt if the children have been taught the above skills effectively. For example, math and computer programming are languages of communication. The same math and programming can be used to solve a problem.
You can send your child to alternate schools, international schools, CBSE schools, government schools, or even decide not to send them to school at all. When your child has learnt the above skills early on, they are indeed ready to take on the world.