Preparing Young Minds for Future: What more do parents and teachers of today need?
In this article, the author brings together perspectives and insights about the needs of growing children in their formative years. He also throws light on emerging evidence in the field of Neurosciences, its possible implications for parents and teachers to facilitate a holistic child development and today’s research needs to bridge the gaps.
‘THE TRUE SIGN OF INTELLIGENCE IS NOT KNOWLEDGE BUT IMAGINATION’- ALBERT EINSTEIN
Imagination, Creativity and Innovation are the three buzz words in today’s world. Corporate leaders look out for these qualities when they recruit staff for their companies as they believe these traits are critical to enhance the organizational efficiency and productivity. Governments seem to need them more than ever before, to solve the complex challenges faced within the countries. Even at an individual level, today’s man is grappling with challenges that he has never faced before. He is travelling much farther now than in the past for his career and work; he is communicating more often now with his colleagues, friends and family; he has lot more information and choices at his reach to make his decisions in his day to day life. In the midst of multiple tasks and roles that fill up his life, he needs creative and innovative solutions to solve his problems.
Educationists argue that most children are born naturally creative, intelligent and innovative and for various reasons, a lot of them lose these qualities as they transit into their adulthood. Ken Robinson questions if the schools and universities of the modern world are killing creativity during the process of imparting education. He says intelligent people of the past who contributed significantly to the civilization in various fields, be it Isaac Newton or Gautama Buddha, are still remembered today because they asked profound questions. But today’s schools and universities are busy training students to answer questions much more than asking questions. Penny Pierce writes that we are transitioning from an era of information into an era of intuition. Surrounded by vast amounts of knowledge and information, increasingly one will be dependent on his or her intuitive faculty to make decisions and solve problems that emerge in ones day to day life. Daniel Goleman suggests that the conventional intelligence measured as intelligence quotient (I.Q) is too narrow and that there are other areas of emotional intelligence (also referred to as emotional quotient, E.Q) that influence success in academic, professional, social and interpersonal aspects of one’s life.
On the other side we are already witnessing the consequences of poor coping abilities and low self confidence among the children. An increasing number of adolescents and young adults are succumbing to stress, anxiety disorders and depression now both in the developing and developed countries. W.H.O has reported relationship between stress, poor productivity and health status among the employees in the organizations. Marital disharmony and divorce and their subsequent effects on the children is well studied; these issues are reported as having related to poor communication, lack of flexibility and poor coping abilities.
Since the issues are seemingly more complex now and can get worse in future, it is time to pause and reflect on how we can respond now. Are our current day educational and parenting systems, at large, geared up toward equipping our children with abilities to meet complex challenges in their lives? Our heightened one sided focus on academics and career both in the homes and the schools seem to have created a huge vacuum that is hard to fill without conscious and planned efforts. It seems very critical now, for parents, teachers and educational entrepreneurs to explore solutions and tools to equip children with abilities that can complement academic functions and result in a more holistic development. Do we have these solutions and tools amidst us?
Let us explore what we know already. A growing body of research in the field of neurosciences suggest that the brains of the children can be shaped or molded, a phenomenon referred to as ‘Neuroplasticity’. This means we can create fresh neuronal connections and augment or substitute sensory pathways in the brain that can enhance specific abilities. Experiments have shown that neuroplasticity can be externally stimulated with the help of specific interventions such as brain exercises, music, and meditation and relaxation techniques. And this in turn can help children achieve better synchronization between different parts of the brain resulting in a more holistic brain development for a child. What does this actually mean to a parent or a teacher? It means that, with a focused training and input, we can nurture balanced development of a child i.e. a child that excels to the best of his or her potential in both academic (analytical, language, reasoning, mathematical, etc.) and non-academic, supportive functions (observation, to pause and reflect, be intuitive, seeing multiple perspectives in decision making, creative problem solving, etc.).
This sounds very promising; isn’t it? While there are intervention methods and tools available now, what we need is the right mix (package) of interventions that are scientifically tested, and that are simple and easy to administer by the parent or a teacher within their settings. Currently, there is dearth of studies that have rigorously evaluated short term and long term impact of these interventions on children. Research in future should explore how well these interventions can be integrated into the current educational and parenting systems and be scaled up without losing their effectiveness. All of us in the community i.e. parents, teachers, educational entrepreneurs and researchers have to come together, both to demand for and provide scientific interventions that can contribute to holistic development of children. A child that is intellectually and emotionally balanced and prepared to face life with confidence and heightened creative abilities, should be the goal of our endeavours. And it is time to rededicate and commit ourselves to a healthier and harmonious society through helping the parents and teachers access promising solutions to help children unleash their full potential.
DR. KRISHNAMURTHY J
PUBLIC HEALTH SPECIALIST AND RESEARCHER