I recently interviewed an American family about their experiences while living in India and sending a child to a local school. They told me a fascinating story (I’ve taken a few creative liberties, but the issues are the same).
Mom and Dad attended the parent-teacher meetings at an English-medium, independent school in India. They spoke briefly to each teacher: the “maths” teacher, the science teacher, the Hindi teacher and finally the English teacher. The English teacher said, “You’re daughter is lovely, but her accent is so thick that no one understands her. Also, she speaks too fast.” Well, Dad was perplexed, “Accent? What accent?”
Then the teacher went on to talk about writing. She said, “Your child’s handwriting is very messy and I always have to take points off.” Mom and Dad were not too concerned about handwriting and asked instead about the content of her writing, but the teacher continued to speak about handwriting. “Your daughter must use a computer at home?”
“Well… yes,” Mom replied.
“Does everyone have a computer in the United States? In India, children do not have computers, so handwriting is very important.”
Not sure what to say, mom replied, “But what about the subject matter of her writing?”
The teacher continued, “You see, in India, handwriting is very important because we are preparing our children for The Boards*, and their handwriting must be legible in order to be graded.”
“But she won’t be taking The Boards.”
“She will be moving back to the United States.”
The parents ended the story with a laugh, “well, she had much better handwriting when she returned to the United States!”
In a way, the tale is funny, but it’s also telling of educational values. While the parents were trying to find out about the content of their child’s writing, which usually constitutes the most important aspect of writing in the American educational system, the teacher showed much more concern for her handwriting, crucial for passing exams that can open or close doors to higher education in India. The parents and teacher reached an impasse.
This anecdote illustrates important cultural differences in education, that can make an international education challenging. While the value may be a relatively small matter (who spends much time thinking about handwriting in the United States?), it can have serious implications (computers per capita definitely marks wealth disparity on a national level) and serious consequences (failing the all-important exams). These are the small factors parents might not even think to consider when choosing to send a child to a local school.
That being said, this particular child had an overwhelmingly positive, life-changing experience. School Choice International will post a video of the interview soon… tune in to find out more about this fantastic family.
See a video interview on the same family!
* Final exams given at the end of Class 10 and 12 through out India.