It’s back-to-school time! But are children excited about it? Unfortunately, most children tend to dread going back to school. It seems to be a universal sentiment… but why is that? School is supposed to be a place where kids learn and more importantly, are instilled with a love of learning.
What has gone wrong in our education systems, in our parenting, in our own attitudes as parents towards schooling? The answer in Egypt is even more complicated than it appears in the West. I’ll explain why in a minute.
But let me begin with a brief overview of the types of schools available for parents to choose from. While I couldn’t find an accurate statistic, it seems that most Egyptian families cannot consider any option other than the free public school system. Unfortunately, this means a dismal level of education and facilities.
Those a little better off have the option of what they call, “language schools.” These are schools with better buildings, and a higher emphasis on teaching languages such as English and French. Fees for language schools range from $400-$1,000 a year.
Those at an even higher standard of living have the luxury of admitting their children into what are called “international schools.” These are either British, American, French, or Dutch schools and follow international curricula. School facilities are better in every way. So are the teaching methods that concentrate on instilling critical thinking skills and building character, rather than just stuffing children with facts and figures that they forget after leaving the exam room. This all comes at a cost, of course, with fees ranging to as high as $20,000 a year.
Now, back to our dilemma… why is it that most kids dread school? I would say it has to do with our schooling system, and the priorities that we esteem as a culture and upon which we base our parenting.
Our public schooling system has been suffering for decades. Teachers are very poorly paid, work in very poor conditions, and most have never been taught to respect students. Students who don’t follow the rules face corporal punishment and humiliation. Who would want to teach or go to school in such miserable conditions?
Our “language schools” must use national curricula, which are largely built on having kids memorise what is being taught, with no chance to question, discuss, or critically think through the material. They are expected to simply study what the teacher and books dictate, and regurgitate it in the examination. The student’s final grade is based almost solely on two major examinations. The result… students who don’t really understand what they’re studying, and who just want to memorise and provide the “right” answers and pass on to the following grade.
The pressures in our education system are intensified by parents who place the grades their children acquire-regardless of any knowledge or learning attained- at the highest priority. Children are often beaten, punished, and humiliated when they fail to achieve high scores. Parents often do so to avoid a sense of shame among relatives and neighbors… they want their child to get the highest scores.
It’s tough to expect children who undergo so much stress both at school and home to love learning and be excited about going back to school.
As part of my work in family ministry, we try to help parents recognise that their sense of dignity should not be contingent on their children’s academic success, and that their children’s academic success cannot simply be measured by high scores in a test. Instilling a love of learning in their children is a much more valuable lesson and investment on the long-run. A child who loves learning will make a habit of learning throughout life, excelling in school, university, and beyond as a productive citizen.
As Christians, we have an even added advantage of following in the footsteps of our Teacher, who built His entire ministry on discipleship… the ideal form of education. He not only taught theoretical principles, but embodied every principle He taught. He did not only ask His disciples to memorise the Torah, as the Pharisees did, but taught them to test every teaching they received (critical thinking), be living letters for Christ (practical application) and “make disciples of all nations” (teach others).
If Christian families applied the example of Christ in education… I believe we could revolutionise our view and attitude towards education!