School systems are preying on people’s need for acceptance, manipulating them into paying outrageous fees, and placing unnecessary pressure on our children.
The United Arab Emirates continues to advance and boast the highest of standards in a number of domains, and providing the best education is one of them. The lifestyle and the high standards associated with this have made the majority of the population fall into this divide of either having to pay for the best education, or accepting that they cannot be in that league. With people falling prey to such a mentality, schools are able to take advantage of the situation and charge exorbitant fees. What we used to pay for our university fees is now the cost of sending our children to nursery. Yes, times have changed and prices have inflated, but the time lapse hasn’t been that long for it to have increased so drastically.
Being a good school is no longer only about the education it provides but the image it portrays. Just like with everything else in today’s world of brand names and social media, schools have learned to position themselves to stand apart from others. An example is the ridiculous waiting lists and pressure on parents to get their children enrolled in certain schools. I have heard many stories of parents who register their interest in schools even before their child is born! By creating these personas, schools portray themselves in an “elite” category and those who get in believe they are privileged or of higher worth.
However, it isn’t only the cost of private education that is skyrocketing but also the pressure that we are putting on our children. Gone are the days when children could roam around the playground, get dirt in their shoes, and still grow up to be successful and content with their lives. Today, there is pressure and competition to conform to the highest standards and to excel, even for children who haven’t started school yet. When I was taking tours of Pre-KG schools to enroll my children in, I found it amusing that the staff would boast about the high numbers of their students who have gotten “accepted” into some of the high ranking schools in the country. What is it that a four-year-old needs to do in order to get accepted into KG 1? What are these standards we are setting, and why are these mere toddlers put under such pressure?
Children today have to undergo assessments and interviews to get accepted into a primary school. While I can appreciate that there may be some advantage in detecting if there are any children who may need special assistance or support; yet in most cases, this may not be a fair assessment. I am a mother of three-year-old twins, who both speak at least two languages, and are able to get their message out to us loud and clear. However, these same children are extremely reserved when faced with new individuals and it can take them at least an hour to warm up until they start interacting with them. This is normal behavior in children, but would the assessor deem them to be not ready for school? Or would he/she wait an hour or two to get them comfortable before making a decision of their readiness?
All this pressure to conform and be accepted can cause immense pressure on parents and children, and I believe it can be detrimental to one’s growth and development. As parents, we need to take a step back and not fall into this circle of fitting into a certain idea, and let our children grow at their own pace, and let them take their time trying out different things and finding out their strengths and weaknesses. And yes, a strong school system is necessary to help a child flourish, but we need to remember that the most expensive or popular one isn’t necessarily always the right one.
Bahar is a recruiter by profession, an aspiring writer by night, and a mom of toddler twins. She has an unending thirst for learning, as she completed her BComm in Canada, an MA in Dubai, and continues to develop herself with reading and research.
With her column, she shares her journey as she grows and learns more about this crazy beautiful world we live in.