Indian Decade

Sprint or Marathon?

Are Indian children going to be burned out because of pressure to succeed?

Who succeeds in life—a sprinter or marathon runner? Is early success in school a guarantee for a happy future? How far can parents justify pushing their children to come out on top in their studies and sports? These were the issues at a discussion at a book release function I attended the other day. ‘Don’t Sprint the Marathon’, by V. Raghunathan, starts with the premise that life is more like a marathon than a sprint.

The books argues that our obsessive rush to get children off to a good start overlooks the fact that in life, as in a marathon, an early lead hardly matters and that being too intent on coming first may leave our children lacking in many of the life skills that a normal childhood would teach them. The early push for children to excel may also sap their stamina for enduring the more difficult challenges that life may throw at them.

But do modern parents in India think that way? If you look at the number of suicides committed by young people over their failure to score well in tests or due to the pressures of exams, it’s clear there’s tremendous pressure on the younger generation to deliver early in their life.

It seems teaching and not learning is what’s important these days. Who is to blame for this type of thinking? The book blames the coaches for preparing the new generation for wrong races.

India is struggling on two fronts—trying to make education universal while at the same time introducing far-reaching reforms in education to enable us to produce not only consumers and executives for the market, but also creators and entrepreneurs for the nation. After all, in the long run, it’s organizations like the Tata group, businessmen like Mukesh Ambani, and artists like composer AR Rahman who define and distinguish the nation.