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Blooming in tranquillity

I spent most of my formative years at a school with an obscure name, not one with easily recognisable acronyms, that elicited nods at inter-school competitions. My head is populated with vivid memories from my school days, small joyful moments locked away in my mind’s myriad compartments, enthusiastically popping up at the slightest prompt of an image, sound or sight. If there was one thing that my school tried to instil in every student entering its gates, it was the belief that every child is precious, regardless of how many or how few talents they possessed.

Growing up, I have wondered if this belief was too naïve and wishy-washy. After all, one could adjudge a person’s capacity in multiple ways: competitions, aptitude tests, grade sheets. But the peril of labelling children and categorising them, of reducing their persona to a few observable capabilities, is that it clips their wings early on. For those unrecognised, it leaves an indelible mark on their self-belief and that affects how they function as adults. Talent recognition is important but what children truly need is support and encouragement, not just to harness their potential but to discover them in the first place, and schools and higher educational institutions play a pivotal role in providing such a conducive learning space.

The adult world, however, told me that life was a battle, and that we cannot all be winners. Adults, even adolescents, always have their guard up, ready to defend their claim to championship. Nobody wants to go home empty-handed, without the trophy, the medal and a pat on the back. This feverish insistence on being "achievers", desperately avoiding imminent failure or worse, mediocrity, is perhaps at its most dazzling display on LinkedIn profiles. It is hard to be raised in a developing, ambitious country and not hear the phrase "Life is a race" repeatedly.

Higher educational institutions only cement this notion further by setting incredibly high standards for admissions. The "race mentality" extends after entering such institutions and presumably carries well into one’s career. There is little scope for learning in dictatorial institutions that promote a blinkered mindset of grades and jobs. Even outside academic institutions, the belief of "all-or-nothing" has seeped well into our psyches. Nobody becomes a Van Gogh overnight and yet, we lay emphasis on excellence even while pursuing hobbies. In an acutely stressful, confined environment, stars are not born; they are crushed as they succumb to the weight of expectations.

Years after leaving school, as I observe the millennials and GenZ struggle to hold on to their self-worth in the race to the finish, quickly discarding any new-found passion that they don’t immediately shine at, my heart goes back to what the cynic in me long discarded, the belief that echoed within my school walls: every person brings something unique to the table and the world is big enough for everybody.

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 1:23:01 AM |

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