An Exploration of Sacred Parenting and Education

Indian Cinema on Parenting and Education

In Education, parenting on February 18, 2012 at 11:14 pm

If you’ve had an upbringing by Asian parents, the chances are you were given three options when you were young: doctor, lawyer or engineer. If you’re lucky, some may throw ‘accountant’ in there too. In some cases there is no choice and you’re steered into being what your parents would like you to be- especially if they happen to be from one of those professions themselves. This is a stereotype of course. On results day, a typical dialogue at the breakfast table may take form as depicted below in the BBC comic Goodness Gracious Me.

I’ve had the good fortune of going to India once. Its an beautiful country and the dergah of Hz Nizamuddin Awliya is very very much alive! An amazing country with a rich history giving rise to minds such as Ramanujan, Tagore, Krishnamurti, Iqbal, Ghalib, Jinnah, Ghandi .. to name the few. From what I’ve been told by an Indian friend, the education system in India is extremely competitive with anything less then 95% being considered unacceptable. Parents would go through great lengths to sacrifice their all for the children’s eduction. This competitive culture along with parenting styles, are being questioned in India with films such as Tare Zameen Par (Stars on Earth). If there is one film that has touched my heart and addressed every issue I bring to the table both as a parent and teacher it would have to be this. Topics such as parental expectations and styles, labeling children, recognising children with special education needs, nurturing the gifted and talented, the significance of a mentor etc are all covered in this film. It’s the story of two brothers. One academically very bright scoring A grades in every subject to meet his parents expectations. The other, totally distracted, bunks school, fails every test, can’t concentrate and eventually gets sent to a boarding school where he meets his art teacher & mentor played by Aamir Khan. I don’t think its a coincidence the teacher who turns his life around and infuses his students with soul happens to be one whose area of specialism is in the arts. His teacher suspects he suffers from dyslexia and helps him manage it as well as nurture his talent and genius. There’s a link to the whole film below with English subtitles. If you’re not used to Indian cinema, the audience does tend to take a break half way through! I’m not sure how age appropriate this film is. I feel it may be quite emotionally demanding for young children. My daughter loves the clown song at 1:11 though.

There is another film, also by Aamir Khan called The 3 Idiots, which also explores these themes with a focus on the fallacies of institutionalised higher education. Although I don’t tend to watch many films, I’m an Aamir Khan fan because he for me puts quality over quantity and seems to have entered a phase as an artists in which he works totally from his heart and is able to imbue his work with soul. Refusing to attend the Indian films awards or take any medals for his work, he has a lot to say in an industry where good looks and appearance are often stressed giving rise to films I would call superficial. Every now and then however, geniuses such as AR Rehman, Satyajit Ray and Sanjay Leela Bhansali take the stage and produce levels of art which seem Divinely inspired. The film also reminds me what a powerful medium art can be to address issues we often turn to academics and their statistics through their books and TED talks. May be poem such as Rudyard Kipling’s IF has a lot more to offer in the long run, especially if we are willing to sit and return to it?

Maybe most importantly, it reminds me of the importance for mentors or role models – especially for boys. For me it was my Maths teacher, a Polish Cambridge graduate by the name of Jastrazembski, who smelt of coffee and cigarettes. For all those who are critical of instituationalised education, I understand and do empathize. There are however teachers who genuinely care and at times take a personal interest in a student. I’ve seen first hand how that can transform a child from somebody being suspended to one displaying levels of academic brilliance the brightest of students would envy. I do hope to explore, with examples, some of themes shown in the movies such as creativity, gifted and talented, special education needs etc in the posts to come as they have always been very dear to me both as a parent and teacher.

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