Teacher: He is a nice boy, he needs to improve on ...
I: Thank you. Does he interact with his classmates and teachers well?
Teacher: Yes He is very obedient and polite.
I: Thank you.
The meeting would end there after I sign to log my attendance. Most fathers I get to see have a similar conversation. Mothers have longer, at times irritating conversations. Since the teacher happens to belong to the same gender, she continues to answer politely. I can't imagine how a male teacher would handle conversations with mom after mom. Must be a tough job!
I had a meeting today. I knew the teacher already. A distant relation. So, I had one extra line to speak - "How are you?". Before signing off, I thanked her and her co-workers for their contribution in creating interest in science among the students. The mom, the next one in line pitched in and said - "The class is competitive". I couldn't see the correlation between good teaching and competition. To cut short any possible long conversation, I said, "I really do not care about competition, I just want learning to happen and it does. I'm fine." I got up to leave. The mom wouldn't let it go. She continued, "But competition is good, it helps the kids be successful in their lives".
I hate to stereo-type moms like that, but this one is a serious stereo type. A success for her would mean, her son / daughter's entry to IIT, the next best one would be to the second line of colleges BITS, NITS etc. A bonus would be an entry in to IIM. Their life time goal is done when the kid gets his/her campus placement in CTS and boards the flight to US. I would compare them to the owners of clumsy little cars navigating through the traffic in Chennai. Speed up, cut a few others, break a few rules here and there, bribe the cop - all for just staying ahead by a couple of hundred meters. In the absence of so-called "competition", the kids would just be fine, some of them would be a bit slow, but all of them will have comfortable lives, thanks to the society and a good education.
By introducing competition, they lose the fun in observing the kid having his own personality. The kid could be a commie, an atheist, a yogi or a naturalist, painter, philosopher, scientist and what not.
I said, "... as long as they love their lives, that's enough for me.." and walked away.