Why Parents Need to be Equal Partners in Education

Every year, IIITH conducts a series of welcome sessions to help acclimatise students to their new environment and assure parents that their wards are in safe hands. Prof P J Narayanan shares what makes these sessions integral in conveying the ethos of the institute.

An academic institution’s glory is reflected in the students they prepare for the world and vice versa. Undergraduate programs have maximum impact as seen at MIT, Oxford as well as Indian institutions, and the reasons for this is manifold. The number of undergraduate (UG) students exceeds the numbers for other programs. UGs also spend a very critical time of their lives in college, developing deep emotional connections. They also branch out into diverse careers in their lives through which the institution produces impact on the world.

Early Influencers
An undergraduate program should transform girls and boys into confident women and men. IIIT Hyderabad spells out its education mission as transforming its students into Competent, Creative, and Caring individuals. This needs active and enduring collaboration and cooperation of everyone with an influence on students: peers, faculty, parents, and society. We particularly recognize the special role of parents in this endeavour, as they continue to influence and communicate with their children. It is critical to recognize that a youngster’s education is a joint mission by the parents and the institute.

Some parents fuss about their children’s pay packages or company-pedigrees right at the start! All parents worry about hostel and classroom facilities. These merely reflect the love and aspirations they have for their children, combined with the anxiety of leaving them, perhaps for the first time. However, parents also need to worry about setting the right aspirations in their wards, for a world they will help shape.

Learning by Example
The institute wants parents to rest assured their wards are in safe hands. We involve other students in good numbers in the welcome sessions, including those who joined just a year before. We conduct several welcome sessions to convey the ethos of the institute to different groups – a common session for all students, parents and others who come with them, with alumni, as well as special sessions for students and parents of the research-based dual-degree programs.

The crown jewel of the sessions is a free-flowing session conducted exclusively for parents to convey the institute’s aspirations for the incoming class, beyond the ordinary pursuits of a high-paying job or a spot in a prestigious graduate school. And to make parents willing enthusiastic partners in fulfilling those aspirations. Educational institutions focus too much on the how of the subject (the skills) and sometimes on the why (the science). We also want our students to reflect on the what. What should they do with the skills and the science they acquire, for themselves, their families, and society at large? This needs introspection and reflection, activities not rated high by today’s society. We urge each student to introspect on what he or she values most, beyond what the media, friends, parents, or society tells them. The results of such an exercise should guide their actions in the short, medium and long terms.

The Big Picture
This is not an easy endeavour for students, their parents, or the institute. However, it is imperative for everyone to realize the importance of this effort. All we can hope for is to set their minds thinking in this direction. The session with parents attempts to convey this, in addition to listening to their views. We are always gratified to see the convergence in the thinking of the parents with our own. The questions from parents in these sessions are both from the head and heart, and faculty respond likewise in this freewheeling exchange that sometimes goes on for close to 3 hours till all queries are suitably addressed. Year-on-year parents give this session high ratings, reiterating our belief in what we are striving to accomplish.

A recording of the Parents’ Session 2019 is now available for everyone. The session was not meant for the camera; we had difficulty editing it suitably. It is being presented in mostly a raw form here. I hope the parents who have gone through such a session in the past will connect readily with it. I also hope parents and students who are considering IIIT Hyderabad find a clear enunciation of the institute’s ethos to help make that decision, away from societal pressures.

The sessions are viewable here  Student Orientation Sessions 2019

Prof P. J. Narayanan, Director, IIITH, is known for his work in computer vision (3D reconstruction, structure-from-motion, computational displays), computer graphics (ray-tracing of implicit surfaces, dynamic scenes), and parallel computing on the GPU (graph algorithms, string sorting, ML techniques like graph cuts, ANN and clustering, as well as several computer vision tasks).

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