x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Good education involves finding the right balance

High marks are not everything in life. What students learn from a teacher is a major part of development. But fitness time, family time and hanging-out time are important, too.

Parents strive to do the right thing by their children. But sometimes it's difficult to know exactly how a child's interests are best served, especially when it comes to education.

Many parents struggle to choose the right school and then, while believing they have done so, continue to worry whether the standard of education their child is receiving is high enough: will it provide entrance to a good university? Will it lead them to a well-paid, secure job?

With so much at stake, it's no surprise that many families are turning to professional tutors to supplement their children's classroom lessons. This phenomenon is by no means restricted to the UAE, but it is a growing trend here, and one that has raised some debate.

In The National yesterday, an educational psychologist was quoted as saying that parents who rely heavily on tutors are being lazy, assigning their own responsibilities to somebody else.

But some parents say they can't afford the time needed to help children with their homework and monitor their progress. Others go further, blaming the education system or an individual school for failing to do its job.

Work to ensure higher standards in the UAE's schools continues. But until the whole system is satisfactory, and even afterwards, the primary responsibility for a child's education lies with the parents.

Certainly, there are aggressive "tiger moms" who can push children beyond their abilities and into despair. But on the other hand, nobody can blame parents who want to improve their children's academic performance and so their prospects in life.

But extracurricular tutoring can lead to problems as well as solutions. If regular classroom teachers are moonlighting as tutors, for example, the notion of conflict-of-interest becomes an issue.

Then there is the consideration that high marks are not everything in life. What students learn from a teacher - in school or elsewhere - is a major part of development, of course, but not the only part: fitness time, family time, and hanging-out time all matter, too.

Good parenting involves finding a balance between encouraging children to achieve their academic potential and allowing them the freedom to be young. That balance will be different for each child; parents know best, if they're attentive and seek that balance.