Psychologists of all persuasions, believe the parents were responsible, one way or the other, for whatever went wrong with a child. They were exceptionally harsh with the mother. Yet, the success of a child's education is often attributed to the education system and not the parent. I agree with Nobel-winning economist James Heckman that parents are vital in the whole education ecosystem.
I propose a few areas that parents must look into to support the academic needs of the children:
In 2006, James Heckman introduced a new level of analysis into the importance of family in mediating the cognitive (intellectual) and non-cognitive (socio-emotional) skills development of children in the early years. In particular, Heckman shows how this distinction has become increasingly important in light of interventions exploring how children can successfully overcome disadvantage in a sustainable manner.
During a child's early years, it is crucial to work on both the cognitive and non-cognitive skills.
Cognitive skills are critical for learning. These skills are often measured in IQ tests. They involve:
Non-cognitive skills are mental constructs that are believed to contribute to academic success, but do not contribute directly to academic outcomes (like cognitive skills).
They include motivation, grit, self-regulation, social skills and personality factors.
While it is believed that cognitive abilities are set by 8, non-cognitive abilities continue to grow into adolescence. Prof Heckman's studies in 2006 also shows that the academic success of students depends on their non-cognitive skills especially at higher levels.
Angela Lee Duckworth in a 2013 Ted talk believes grit is the single most important factor for academic success.
Singapore students fare very well in an international studies on academic abilities. In the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2009, conducted by Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Singapore students had the second highest proportion (12.3%) of students who are top performers in all three domains in Reading, Mathematics and Science. Singapore's education is an envy of many countries, and the Singaporean parents have the biggest part to play.
A Singaporean child can do well in any education system because there is
at least one concerned parent behind him/her. It is
not surprising if you look at the after-school tuition rate. An amazing 97% of Singaporean children go for tuition, higher even compared to other Asian countries like South Korea and Hong Kong with 90% each.
Truly, for whatever reasons, Singaporean parents have made tuition part of the
education system, and often, how well a child does is correlated to the
number of tuition hours he/she receives.
With the immense support from parents in the education process, even with one of the highest student-ratio and the smallest education budget (% of GDP) amongst the first world countries, Singapore manages to produce excellent academic results.
People often credit that to the education system, and I agree. Just that my definition of education system includes a vital group of people who would go all out to support their children academically.
These parents take leave to gear their children for PSLE, an exam all twelve-year-olds take. They take a whole year off to watch over their kids in the 'critical academic' years where their children have to sit standardized exams. They stop their children from doing their favorite sports and the arts. They would scream at the children the moment a teacher calls to complain. They will also not hesitate to personally (or employ someone to) look over their children's shoulders to ensure homework is done.
They are a reliable source for teachers to turn to
whenever their children fail to perform academically. They will find
solutions. And, when all else fail, some are willing to take out a whip
to discipline their children for poor performance.
Take these parents away from the education system, and I am pretty sure our children will fair pretty differently in international tests. Singapore parents are the heroes in the education system.
Having stayed in western countries, I witness the absence of such parents as they struggle to find the Asian secret to education success. Fingers point and tempers fly at the education ministers. I wonder if these people have ever looked deep within themselves to realize that if their parents won't do their parts, their children will not strive academically no matter how good their systems are, and no matter how much the government spends.
* Statistics by Sunday Times http://goo.gl/edjkYC
assesses the extent to which 15-year-old students near the end of
secondary education are able to analyse, reason and apply their
knowledge and skills in unfamiliar settings so as to meet real-life