Are We Born Intelligent,Or

Many believe that intelligent people are born. This is far from the truth. We are all born with same brain. Each brain has one trillion neurons. The more we use the brain, especially in our formative years up to 12 years, the more neuron connect with each other into a very large complex web within our brains. In other words the more we use our brain the more it develops and manifests as intelligence. The process is similar to building our physical bodies. The more we exercise  the more the muscles develop.

Check out this video from my seminar

Parenting and Motivating your Child

My son is intelligent but wastes time at home watching TV and playing video games.
My child gets average grades. I can’t get him to study maths and science. I know he can do better.
My  daughter was doing well in class. Suddenly she lost interest in studies and wastes her time sleeping.
I am teaching Mind Mapping and other learning skills to teachers, parents and students for several years now. Often, parents and teachers approach me during the workshops and ask for help to motivate their children to study.
Motivating your child is not my role” I tell them. “It’s yours. Why? Because it is a continuous process and not a one-time activity.”
And then I share with them, few insights based on my experiences, training and lessons learnt raising our own two children.
1. One of the fundamental question parent must ask themselves is whether grades alone define any child.
There is no doubt grades are important. But grades cannot be sole criteria for defining any child. Why? Because each child has their own natural bouquet of strengths, intelligences and talents.
As we know, there are different kind of ‘intelligences’ – logical, musical, conceptual, visual, language, martial, numerical, drama and art. Each child has his own natural set of ‘intelligences’. Some children are good with numbers, logic and words. Others have vivid imagination and can paint, write poetry, and are extroverts.
Unfortunately, our school education system of one size fits all, focuses on left brained subjects like logic and numeric proficiency. Therefore children with a dominant left brain generally tend to score better grades. Children with dominant right brain have better imagination, conceptualisation, and music abilities. The grades they sometimes get are not so good. Therefore, despite having many talents these children, unfortunately, do not get the recognition they deserve from teachers and parents. These children slowly become shy, feel inferior and lose motivation to work hard.
Parents and teachers therefore have to know about and understand these natural differences between children. Right brain dominant children are as intelligent as left brain dominant children, only in different areas. Parents and teachers have the challenging task of spotting each child’s unique talents, gifts and skills and to acknowledge them as often as possible. This will build the child’s self-confidence and self-worth. With appreciation and acknowledgement comes motivation to do better.
I know of a student whose talent as a brilliant painter was spotted in junior classes. He won many national and international awards in school. But his mother was determined on making him an engineer. Maths and science grades to her were most important. She persuaded him to stop painting and pursue computer engineering after school. Despite best tuitions he did not get good grades in class 12 or in college and is an unhappy child.
The lessons to learn are obvious. If parents push their children out of alignment to their talents, the consequences are not difficult to visualise. These parents are contributing to mediocre performance and lifelong unhappiness of their child.
Ms Jenny Yeo, principal and lead associate in the engagement and research division of Ministry of Education, Singapore shares a story in The Strait, of a student who was not doing well in her subject despite working hard. She writes that “many of the happiest, most fulfilled people I’ve met had their moments of self- doubt and failures as students. That, setbacks are there to be learnt from is a terrible cliché, but true.”
Her students over time, with encouragement from the teachers and parents “learnt that people have different talents and strengths. The key was to accept to work on one’s weaknesses and develop one’s strengths. And understood that it was more important to be resilient, enjoy learning and pursue it passionately.”
2. How do we strengthen a child’s natural talents and develop less dominant ‘intelligence’?
Today many online applications like ‘Luminosity’ and offer a bouquet of games to develop different skill sets. I urge you to channelize your children screen time to use such applications. These applications gradually build you up to higher levels of competence in a fun way. They give immediate feedback and you can track your progress over time. In fact I recommend, parents too, play along with their children and make it into a family quality time together.
3. Then there are situations where some children do very well up to middle school but in senior classes they are thrown off balance. Despite hard work, underperformance in one subject is enough to lose self-esteem. They start avoiding teachers, reduce class participation and communication with parents becomes strained.
Parents and teachers have to be vigilant to spot these subtle changes early on. They must repeatedly convey to the child that poor performance in one or more subjects does not define them. And that they love and value their child for what they are.
Such genuine reassurances helps the child understand that parents and teachers honestly do not hold grades against them and that they appreciate that the child is making his best efforts.
One of the ways to prove your sincerity is by focusing on the child’s learning processes rather than the grades. When the child shows you his test paper discuss how the learning process can be improved. Identify the root causes – careless mistakes, lack of understanding or ability to apply concepts. Encourage the child to acquire new age learning skills like mind mapping. Acknowledge the slightest progress made. And keep reviewing the process.
Many eminent psychologists (Pavlov, Skinner, Berridge) have experimented with games which ‘reward processes’ rather than results. They concluded that praising the process children engage in, is extremely important to motivate them. This process praise of their efforts, perseverance, strategies helps build the child’s character, resilience and tenacity.
Parents therefore, must not focus on academic grades. They must look beyond and help the child discover his unique talents and gifts. Once discovered they have to help their child nurture, use and enjoy these talents as best as they can. They must also make their ward aware of career options which will best utilize their natural gifts and talents. Only unconditional love and our acceptance of who they are will help them grow into happy individuals.
4. My son doesn’t listen to me. I don’t understand him.
Dr Steven Covey in his best seller ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ explains that to understand another person you have to listen to them and not the other way round. Breakdown of communication between parents / teachers and children is a very common problem and often the reason for poor grades.
Close your eyes for a moment and think of your response if your child in class 12 comes to you and says “I doesn’t want to go to school from tomorrow.”
You will probably jump up angrily and immediately accuse them of not appreciating the sacrifices you have made to educate them. Or, maybe you will start an unsavoury interrogation and be critically judgemental. These responses are not likely to lead to a satisfactory outcome.
Instead, in such emotionally charged situations you should be listening empathetically. Empathetic listening is listening with your ears, eyes and your heart. You do not advice, judge, or interrogate till emotions calm down or advice is asked. You listen to the words and to the feelings behind those words. Empathetic listening is not sympathetic listening.
Empathetic listening is a skill and can therefore be learnt.
To listen empathetically, repeat the content of what you hear and the feeling behind them. For example, in this case you could say “You do not want to go to school because you are frustrated.” You continue empathetic listening till the other person asks for advice or opens up. This will take time but its outcome will be very different than the previous ones.
Empathic listening is an important skill to learn.
5. It is always a challenge to make my child do homework and review what they learnt at school today.
This is another common situation. Remember advising, threatening, criticizing or looking at children through your mental prism will only alienate them. You have to get on to their team. You have to understand that what motivates you does not necessarily motivates them. They are motivated by different things. So here are some of the things you can do.
Compensate for skills the child does not have. For example help them with time management. Develop a time table for home study. Use the free computer software ‘calendar’ to plan. Every Sunday plan the following week. Be firm but kind and mutually agree on consequences if ‘study schedules’ are not followed. For example ‘you can’t go to play, watch your favourite TV show, or play video games till you complete your homework and prepare notes of today’s class.’
Make sure the child has a predetermined spot for study and distractions are minimised during study time. A very good way for the child to learn is to get them to teach you what they learnt in school. Always focus on the content and the process and not on the grades.
Read to them stories from books and interesting articles from magazines and newspapers. Let them see you reading regularly. Children are great mimics.
When grades are consistently poor, frustrated parents tend to be so involved that they end up doing the child’s homework. This must be avoided at all costs. Be involved and support the processes. Not do the work yourself.
Teach them mind mapping to prepare notes. Mind Maps save enormous amount of revision time, boosts understanding and boosts memory.
Regularly meet the teachers. They are professionals and will guide you in the best interest of the child.
Debbie Pincus a licensed clinical councillor advices parents to ‘Recognize that sometimes your child’s feelings of shame, inferiority or anxiety can be misinterpreted as a lousy attitude, lack of motivation, and irresponsibility. Often the cover- up for these vulnerable emotions can take the form of acting out, shutting down, avoidance, and defiance. Remember that what is happening now may look very different as your child matures and develops. In the meantime, in a positive relationship, lend him your brain by helping him with the structure and habits he can’t pull off on his own. And calm yourself by understanding the bigger picture of what is going on now.’
Teach your child ‘life balancing’ skills and activities. Encourage them to build friendships, participate in family activities like cooking, charity and volunteer work in the community. Get involved yourself in their school activities and school projects.
Parenting is a full time effort. Parents need to learn themselves, or at least, be aware and provide opportunities to their children to learn essential new age learning skills – Mind Mapping, Long Term Memory Development, Listening Skills, Time Management, Speed Reading and Whole Brain Learning.
These skills and your constant involvement in the learning processes will keep your child motivated to learn and develop into a happy fulfilled human being.
Aggarwal, Ajay. New Age Learning and Reading Skills. New Delhi: S Chand, 2013.
Dr Steven Covey. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Pocket Books, UK, 1999.
Pincus, Debbie. 10 Ways to Motivate your Child to Do Better in School. n.d.
Yeo, Jenny. “Grades Should Not Define Our Kids.” The Straits , Singapore 22 August 2016.

Change Learning and Teaching Strategies

For some years now, I have worked closely with primary, middle and secondary schools run by the government, NGO’s and the private sector.  Input problems like outdated curriculums, quality of book, availability of teachers trained in New Age Teaching Skills and consequently the poor quality students produced are well known and need no elaboration.

The disastrous consequences of learning by rote and the ‘tuition culture’ are obvious. Students find studies boring and ‘tuitions’  deprive them of time to engage in other activities essential for all round personality development. Those who go for university education cannot let go of the school culture of learning only to pass exams. No meaningful research is done and students are unable to compete in high end ‘talent and intelligence’ market.

Consequently, when they enter the job market the employers find they lack skills and can’t apply knowledge and they therefore need  expensive  re-education and skilling.

The economic cost of this time and money wasted is in billion of rupees. More importantly the future competitiveness of the nation is at stake.

All this is obvious to the policy makers but  earnest initiatives are yet to be seen to meet these challenges. If we are to compete with countries like China, Korea, Japan,  and Singapore recognized globally for best education, then we need to change the learning and teaching strategies and adopt the new age learning and reading skills right from primary level.

The new age learning skills like Mind Mapping, Development of Long Term Memory, Whole Brain Learning  , Management of Study Time etc. save time , boost memory and understanding. To learn more visit Apsara Foundation.

10 Tips for Exam

School final exams are  round the corner. Here are recommendations by reputed educators  and practices of top performing students on how to approach the exams and tackle the question paper.
  1. Arrive 15 minutes to 30 min earlier. Familiarise your self with the exam venue, your seat, washrooms and take deep breaths to calm yourself just before the question paper is distributed.
  2. Don’t think about exam, study on the way or discuss with friends. Human brain stores information, like a library stores books, during sleep the previous night. Last minute revisions or discussions disturbs this order in the brain and confuses you.
  3. Use power of spoken word to motivate yourself. Tell yourself,yes you can do it. If others can so can you.
  4. Imagine positive outcome of exam results. Imagine receiving awards, admission into your dream college, admiration of your parents, teachers and friends.
  5. Carefully read complete Question paper including all instructions before starting to write answers.
  6. Sometimes examiners deliberately place difficult questions right at the start. Don’t get scared or demotivated. There will be easy questions too in the paper.
  7. Allocate time wisely. The marks allotted to the question are an indicator as to how much time you should spend on it. allot at least 10 to 15 minutes for revision of your answers at the end.
  8. Attempt easy questions first difficult later. This builds confidence to tackle the difficult ones as you go along.
  9. Don’t get carried away and write too much to questions you know well. Answer appropriately after understanding the question and its relative importance indicated by marks allotted.
  10. Never give up. If you know the answer partially write as much as you know. You will get some marks.
To learn more read ” New Age Learning and Reading Skills” by Ajay Aggarwal published by S Chand Group.

What Parents should be doing to make their children globally competitive

It is well recognized that Indian school education system requires all round improvement in infrastructure,  quality of teachers and indeed the very tools children use for learning. In the 2009, global test ‘Program for International Schools Assessment’ (PISA) conducted by OECD, Indian children ranked 72 of 73 countries. On top were children from China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Finland, Korea and Japan. Illustrations

Indian children are by no means intellectually inferior to those from top ranking countries. Only their learning methods and strategies are obsolete. Nature has provided every child with unlimited learning capacity. It is a fallacy to think that some children are born ‘intelligent’ and others are not. To be ‘intelligent’ you must use your ‘whole brain’. That is, use both, left and right brain to learn.

The important thing to remember is that human brain and therefore our intelligence can be developed with proper mental exercises just like body muscles can be developed with physical exercises. Age is no bar.

In the last twenty years an awesome amount of research has gone into discovering the secrets of the brain. New understanding of the brain has enabled development of new tools to remember, retain and recall information better than ever before. Mind Mapping developed by Tony Buzan is one such tool which can boost memory and understanding several time. APSARA FOUNDATION is successfully teaching New Age learning and Reading Skills since 2012 and the improvement in academic  performance ( Vidya School) seen by many schools is satisfying. Another recent example is from ANANADA Academy, Haldwani – UP.

I urge parents to take serious note of these tools and ensure your children learn these skills as early as 9 -10 years.

Vidya School experience with ‘New Age Learning Skills’

From the principal’s Desk –

“The result of 2013 – 14 was the best as compared to last 10 years result. 94% of the students cleared and were promoted to next class. I even tried with my 10 years old son who is in DPSI. All through the year he scored 100% in science. “

Parents you too can help your children learn and grow.

Continue reading

How Can Parents Help Their Children Learn and Grow

Apsara Foundation for education’s new initiative, focuses on ways that parents can help children learn and grow.

Parents are often very busy. But if they organize their time, there are many things they can easily do to help their children. For example;

Direction before Efficency

Direction before Efficency

1.Take Advantage of ‘Flexi Hours’ company policy and be home during afternoons.

2.Multi Task and do quiet at- home activities right beside your child while they do their homework.Or you may use the time together in the car. Continue reading