Who Benefits From PTMs?


http://archive.deccanherald.com/Content/Dec112008/dheducation20081210105893.asp

Radha Prathi has a word with parents, teachers and students, and finds out that the Parent Teacher Meetings (PTMs), seem to be utilised more for unnecessary complaints and activities rather than what they were meant to achieve, ie, helping the student progress.
No educational institution worth its salt, can do away with a mandatory feature like the Parents’ Teachers’ Meeting, popularly known as PTM, by parents, teachers and students, alike. The idea behind this meeting, conducted fastidiously by schools, is to apprise the parents or the guardians of their students, regarding the latter’s general behaviour and academic performance.The meeting generally enables the concerned parties to make or take suggestions regarding possible changes and adjustments that could be incorporated in the overall functioning and development of the institution and the student. Different schools have divergent ways and their own dates for conducting their meetings. While some institutions believe in addressing the parents as one mass, most of the schools try to meet the parents of their students individually.

This situation has also been accepted as an indispensable feature that punctuates academic life with unerring regularity.This concept, which appears to be crystal clear, is apparently becoming a bone of contention in most of the educational institutions these days. When, in a survey, schools that catered to dissimilar economic strata of students, were consulted on the subject, it was interesting to note that their problems were more or less similar and varied in shades of their intensity. The heads of the schools pointed out that though PTMs were conducted during weekends, late evenings or early mornings to facilitate working parents to attend them without hassles, the number of parents who turned up, invariably never exceeded eighty per cent most of the time.

Though meetings are generally conducted mainly to get in touch with parents of guardians of children who did not fare well academically or otherwise, there was an uncanny similarity when all the headteachers pointed out that the parents of such children invariably absented themselves from the meetings. Sometimes no amount of following up on the issue through e-mail and telephone could improve the situation. The teachers pointed out that this trend made it very difficult to take corrective measures with the student.

“What went wrong?”


Suguna, a senior teacher, pointed out that the parents of these very weak children, were the ones who always landed up at the school after the announcement of the final examination results, wondering what could have possibly gone wrong. Fathima, a class teacher of tenth standard, chimed in saying that the parents of students who fared well, were more of a menace, for they never seemed to be satisfied with their ward’s performance. Anjali, an English teacher in a high-profile school, recollected how she had to spend nearly forty five minutes with highly educated parents, explaining why she had awarded four and a half on five for a perfect answer while another classmate of the student had been awarded full marks for a similar answer. One headmistress confessed that she dreaded the prospect of a parents’ meeting because she feels drained out, after listening to issues which were mostly trivial in nature. She mentioned a meeting with an aggressive parent who was livid with rage because whenever she sent pasta for lunch to her ten-year-old son, his classmates always gobbled down the food, leaving her son hungry for the day.

The teachers mentioned that only thirty to forty per cent of the meeting could be considered as valid and valuable because the rest of the time and energy was frittered away in inconsequential and unwanted details. Constant interference and bickering indulged by parents, hampered the working style of teachers, making the teaching community wish away such unpleasantness.

Parents speak

Even as the teachers and the institutions came up with their side of the story, some of the parents consulted on the subject, had a different tale to tell. Quite like the teachers’ grievances, the parents’ complaints were also more or less comparable on common grounds. The Sharmas, working parents of two school going children, said the PTMs’ were harrowing affairs for them too. One of them had to avail leave and wait for long hours to meet the teaching faculty in the school. Most of the times, mark sheets, fee reminders and circulars regarding donations, school trips and functions were handed over personally during these meetings.

Unpaid fines for crumpled uniform, unpolished shoes, not wearing the house tee shirt on a specified day, shabby nails and hair among other offences, are usually collected during PTMs. Sometimes, the answer sheets of tests and exams were also shown to the parents for a brief period and most parents were advised discreetly, to put their students into tuition classes, to step up their academic levels. All the parents consulted on the subject, said the project work prescribed by the school and some of the value-added homework in various subjects, appeared to be for the parents rather than the children because they were the ones who gear up to face deadlines in style.

The parents said the teachers were usually in a hurry and hardly had the patience to listen to their side of the problems. Parents, especially those of academically weak students, found that many institutions downgraded their problems, belittled the parents and the child’s behaviour, and sometimes even accused the parents of bad upbringing, without pausing to listen to the other side of the story.

The students, the protagonists in the PTM scene, had their tales of woes to unfold, for even the best of them knew that they were in for a dressing-down session with their parents after every such meeting. According to Sheetal, a high school student, it appeared as if the parents faced more peer pressure from fellow parents than the students themselves. On a serious note, it appeared that the adults — both, the teachers and their parents — relegated their real problems like facing a cutback on their games period, finding little or no place to keep their bags, unhygienic toilet conditions, lack of dining space or encroaching their break time with extra class time, among other problems.

Considering the fact that PTMs’ have become veritable nightmares for all those concerned, the time is ripe to usher in a pleasant and practical change which can serve its rightful  purpose — for, as William Wordsworth put it — The child is the father of the man.

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