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It has been probably a million times that you have heard the phrase “one never stops learning.”  Well, I am about to make it a million and one.  However, this time it is about imparting this age-old saying onto our kids.

Asian students in general are doing very well on the academic front.  In Malaysia, success is often measured by the string of A’s that one can manage in each of the major examinations.  These successes have become major sources of pride for both the students and their parents.  Year after year, more and more students are scoring all A’s in all fronts. 

While it is commendable and in fact important to be a top performing student, one would have crossed the line if the sole objective of learning were just to ace the examinations.  Not many would admit this fact, yet their daily actions reflect this objective clearly.  How many times have we heard reports that our students are just memorizing facts without really understanding them?  What about the drill practice at the mushrooming tuition centres across the country?  They are all geared towards providing one thing – to answer the exam questions as per what the examiner wants.  I have even heard of cases where students actually memorizing essays to be reproduced later in the test!

Somehow, somewhere, have we taken the wrong turn in the journey to pursue knowledge?  Learning for examination is important, but learning to live is even more so.  I am not saying that they should not aim to get all A’s, but as parents, we must ensure that they understand what they are learning.  Only then, the process will become fun and meaningful again. 


Mathematics is easy!

When I was in primary school, my mathematic teacher boldly claimed, “Mathematics is the easiest subject in the world.”  Naturally, our eyes rolled in disbelief.  However, what came next changed my perception towards the subject forever.  He added, “it is all about adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing.  You only need to understand these four things; you can then answer any mathematical questions.  What can be simpler than that?”  What a revelation by a true teacher at heart!  Since then, mathematics has become my favourite subject.  I enjoyed solving the questions because they are just like a puzzle to me.  I studied in a boarding school during my secondary school years.  My classmates even woke me up from my slumber just to ask me to solve their mathematical questions in the wee hours before their test!  By the way, I aced both Modern and Additional Mathematics without burning the midnight oil.


Street Smart versus Book Smart

Smart parents also recognize that it is equally important for their kids to be street smart as well as being book smart to have sustainable success in life.  As such, they would encourage and celebrate the thinking process as much as the actual output itself.  They ask open-ended questions rather than the simple “yes/no” types.  They also encourage their children to “argue” and rationalize their actions.  If done within the right environment, this practice would allow their kids to learn the finer points of life on their own rather than spoon-feeding them with the answers all the time.  In doing so, they are directly training their kids to be thinking on their feet rather than just waiting for the solution to fall from the sky.  Would you agree that this skill would be useful in their later years?


The World is The School

Smart parents also see the learning opportunities in almost every situation.  For example, when someone is not doing his job well and caused them inconveniences later on, that is a learning moment for their kids.  They tell them that one must be responsible for his or her actions.  Otherwise, someone somewhere will suffer the consequences.  If they watch a good movie together and the good side triumphs, that is a learning moment.  When they travel and noticed the good practice of other people or culture, it is another learning moment. 


The opportunities are endless.  All we need is a curious mind and encouragement to feed the curiosity.  Smart parents do just this.  They encourage and feed their kids’ curiosity by asking questions and letting them research the answers.  I remember when I was growing up, I read a lot of books to feed my curiosity on about any subjects in the world.  The thing is, the more I read, the more curious I become. 


Once we find the true objective of learning, the rest will fall into place.  By understanding the subject matter, we will find learning to be a joyful activity again.  Impose this mindset towards our kids, they too will find reading, revising and studying to be less of a chore.  They may even excel in whatever subjects without the need to attend any tuition classes.  Just think of the hours and ringgits saved!

This is when we know that we have found the real purpose of learning.  That is, we learn to live and we live to learn!

Zaid Mohamad is a Certified Parental Coach and the bestselling author of Smart Parents, Brighter Kids and Smart Parents, Richer Kids.  Log on to www.SmartParents.com.my or write to him at zaid@smartparents.com.my.




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