By Akhil Shahani
When I was born some decades ago, my parents immediately registered me for admission into the 8th standard of one of India’s top boys boarding schools. They had already planned 13 years in advance where I would go to senior school! Luckily, these days the time frame between application and school admission is limited to one year.
There are quite a few parents who decide the playgroup their baby will join based on the likelihood of them getting the training needed to join the right pre-school, which will train them for the ideal school and so on to the right college, which they hope will lead them to the right career.
These parents believe that there will be a lot of competition for the best jobs by the time their children graduate, so they want to give them the best possible headstart. This, unfortunately, is a very limited view of education.
The best way to understand what it takes to have a great career is to look at the successful people around you and realise that there are many pathways available. People have achieved success in a wide range of vocations like chefs, designers, entrepreneurs, bankers, corporate CEOs and authors, among others. What is interesting is that many of these successful people did not go to the so-called right schools and colleges. They came from diverse backgrounds and forged their own paths to get to where they are today.
However, what is common among these successful people is that they have matched their strengths and passions to the right career which encouraged them to work hard at it, deal with numerous setbacks and finally come out on top. The vast majority of less successful people tend to be caught in jobs that do not match their strengths or do not excite them much, which leads them to mediocrity.
When your baby is born, you will have no idea how their character will develop. Will they grow up to be creative or extroverted or analytical or sports-oriented? Most kids develop their personalities by exploring their environment and discovering what they love and what they are good at.
Understand the teaching environment of the play group, pre-school and school before you admit your child there. Does the institution give your child a lot of opportunities or is it just focused on academics? Does it have a strict, limiting culture or an open, nurturing culture?
The best thing you can do as a parent is not to limit them by pre-planning every step of their development. You should expose your growing child to the widest variety of experiences possible and let them develop through the joy of discovery. Your child’s journey through life may be very different to what you want it to be. However, remember they will always be happier following their own path than the one that has been imposed upon them.
(The author is Managing Director, The Shahani Group)