After class XII, most of the children in my daughter’s school (she is in class X now and goes to a premium school that we are very happy with) head for all-expenses-paid-by-parents undergrad education in countries such as the US. They, and their parents, talk despairingly about the poor standard of education here. But we can’t afford to send our children abroad without scholarships, and we don’t think things are so bad here. However, our elder daughter is beginning to feel upset that she is not part of the “club” discussing SAT scores, “statement of purpose” essays and foreign universities. How do we deal with this?
A parent had written in once about her dilemma of sending children to elite schools. Premium schools may provide great academic exposure; however, there is a problem of over-exposure to affluence and easy privilege.
In a way, the issue that you have brought up seems to come with the territory, so to say. It’s a tricky balance for you to not dismiss your daughter’s classmates as “spoilt” while underscoring the merits of being on-the-ground here in India. First, you have to be totally unapologetic about not being able to foot the bill for her foreign education the way her classmates’ parents may. There are many things that we simply had to lump about what our parents could or could not do for us, or would or would not do for us. We may not have liked it then and felt most sorry for ourselves—only many years later did the wisdom of our parents’ choices dawn on us.
However, right now, you don’t want to simply tell her to “deal with it”, of course. What you can do is emphasize that a hard-won scholarship is something worth waiting and working for. This may sound to her like some old-fashioned insistence on your part, but so be it. The other thing you could do is get her to meet slightly older youngsters who have opted for courses in India and are quite happy with the education they are getting. Along with your daughter, you can research—on the Internet and other such sources—what her options are, so that she doesn’t see her future as some “choose-from-the-best-of-a-bad-lot” kind of scenario. Currently, with everyone around her flapping their wings (and their parents flexing their wallet muscles), she is beginning to feel left behind. It is this that you have to tackle sensitively and yet decisively. Avoid getting defensive with her. Don’t go on the offensive either, with statements such as “What’s wrong with our country, we have a glorious tradition of education”. Be secure in the knowledge that you will do what you can for your children.
Be secure: A scholarship is worth the wait.
When we work hard for our children, and they make us feel like we are not “measuring up”, it is tempting to say something scathing to get them to appreciate your position. Avoid this at all costs.
Gouri Dange is the author of The ABCs of Parenting.