Second Schools – Are we overdoing extra curricular activities for our kids?

Is too much of extracurricular activities affecting our children?

Text by: Dr Rohit Shah

A report in Hindustan Times titled – Parents, too many extracurricular activities may harm your child’s development (16/5/2018) “has discovered that the majority of children almost 88% took part in organised activities four to five days per week with 58% doing more than one in an evening. They found extracurricular involvement was dominating family life, especially for families with more than one child. Consequently, families were spending less quality time together, and money and energy reserves were often depleted”.

This report set me thinking, as a parent when every evening my three-year-old daughter gets ready to go for a dance class in the neighbourhood, whether these classes are necessary; are they a boon or a bane.

Almost every evening and weekends, I see the children in our building constantly rushing as they are enrolled in some classes or the other. It’s almost like a second school, where some children are engaged in music, others in art classes/ crafts/ gymnastics/ martial arts/ workshops and the list goes on.

Parents looking to effectively utilize their children’s free time are now bombarded with the variety on offer in every neighbourhood of Mumbai; this makes the economic scope of these classes potentially huge.

It would make an interesting research topic,  to estimate the average number of classes being conducted in Mumbai, their scope and annual income. Since their perceived advantages seem aplenty. Some of them being – constant engagement of the child in a positive manner, personal development, fulfilment of their hobbies/passion, extracurricular involvement resulting in the apparent overall development of the child.

However, there are some downsides to the race in sending a child to extra classes too. I think owing to a lot of competition, somewhere we as parents should take the blame to sign up our children in so many extracurricular activities. We run the risk of ‘overstimulating’ our children by not allowing them to get bored and always indulging them in some activity or the other.

Owing to their demand and popularity, several classes have mushroomed in the city, making them highly commercial which can risk the quality of learning that gets imparted to our children.  Sadly, our children appear to have become machines alternating between school and these classes almost every day of the week, with little/ no free time to play.

Another survey worth mentioning was again in Hindustan Times titled – Most parents struggle to keep up with their child’s interests, finds the study (16/6/2017) “revealed that 73% of the parents felt their child’s interest was a reflection of their happiness; 16% linked interest to hobbies and 11% to aptitude. Identifying their children’s interests remained a primary challenge, with 25% finding it difficult to ascertain interests. Moreover, 31% parents said they were unable to keep track of the changing interests of their child, and 40% felt the need to understand in detail the ways in which they could nurture their children’s interests”.

I’m sure the benefits offered by these after school classes have more advantages than the downsides, but if as parents we overdo it, then it may not have the positive effect as we may hope or aim for.

There is also a need for regulation of these classes through guidelines and licensing by the concerned government authorities as the quality of learning/ syllabus and the fees needs to be standardised. Currently, there may not be properly defined parameters, and sometimes no minimum qualifications required for an individual/ group to open such hobby/ after school programmes.

To summarize, it is recommended that a student counsellor is employed to evaluate the hobbies and interests of the child and accordingly the classes are chosen depending on the child’s interests rather than the parents’ wishes as generally is the case today.

I have decided as a concerned father, that my daughter will pursue classes of her interest i.e. dance and for the remaining time I will encourage her to play time-tested simple games of our childhood like merry go round, catch-catch, hide and seek, etc.

Hence I suggest to other concerned parents, that they should limit classes to not more than two different ones on separate days so as not to overload our precious children. To conclude, if not overdone, these second schools appear to be a boon to parents and their children alike and thus necessary.

Dr Rohit Shah, BDS MDS PGDMLS is a senior Periodontist and Implantologist based out of Mumbai. He is also a Teacher, Consultant, Clinician and a Surgeon by profession, specializing in Periodontal surgeries, Dental Implants and a foodie by passion. He is a part of the Editorial Board in a few national dental journals and has numerous publications to his credit. Currently, he is working as an Associate Professor in Periodontology at Terna Dental College, Navi Mumbai. He is one of our esteemed students at The Lifestyle Portal Online Writing Program.

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