R.I.P Zig Ziglar

In the earliest days of my professional life there were four people whose writings and talks inspired me more than any others, whose philosophies contributed to my aspirations for the kind of professional person I wanted to be. They were;

Tom Peters (and Waterman)
Brian Tracey
Anthony Robbins
Zig Ziglar

Sadly, the last of the four, Zig Ziglar passed away earlier today after a brief illness and pneumonia at the age of 86.

Here’s a very fitting obituary from Seth Godin: Seth Godin’s Appreciation of Zig Ziglar

I know that when I was involved in work that involved selling, Zig’s influence made a far better salesman of me than I might otherwise have been (in the best interests of me and the people I sold to as his methods were highly ethical.)

Thank you, Sir for those early inspirations.

The Anxieties of Starting A Child’s School Life

Dear Mr. Parkinson,

My older son is about to turn three, and we are looking at various schools in Delhi where he could apply. I have been keenly following your blog, and am very impressed with the education philosophy that you (and others) have put to work at Shri ram. I had some specific questions, that I was hoping you could provide some perspective on:

(1) I notice that you are now working towards a school that will follow the CBSE curriculum. In your view, what are the strengths and weaknesses of CBSE compared to ICSE?

(2) Shri ram school is one of the few schools that prefers children to be 3.5 before they join at the entry level class. Given that many countries in the world delay formal schooling till even later, do you think 3+ is too young to send children to school. And if a child is January or February born, they will be 10-11 months younger than their classmates. What effect can this have on confidence etc., as there is bound to be some disparity in fine motor skills etc.

(3) How do parents find out information about schools. It is such an important decision, and yet, there is such little information accessible on each of the schools, and how they differ from each other. For example, Vasant Valley, Shri ram and Sanskriti are regarded as some of the best schools in Delhi – but I am sure there are major differences in educative technique etc. How do parents find out about things like this. I notice that Shri ram has an elected student council which is very different from a nominated set of student leaders. This is normally something that happens in college, and I am sure its introduction at the school level must engender a sense of responsibility. Why does Shri ram prefer this system?

Look forward to your views.



Hi Aman,


You have really asked a number of very critical questions that go to the heart of the issues for all parents choosing a school for their child in the Indian scenario.

I will try to give answers that do your questions justice;

1) On the CBSE vs ICSE question, I don’t want to draw enemies as people’s views do tend to be quite polarised! However, a few general observations. Firstly, and examination Board has the onerous task of sitting in judgement and claiming that they KNOW what knowledge a young person will need to succeed in the world in 10 or 20 years from now. I would not want to be in their shoes as I can say in all humility I don’t have a clue what a person will need to know in that time.

There was a piece of research about 2 years ago that suggested that when we look at elementary age children today, 65% at least of them will do a job that we haven’t even invented the name of yet!

Of far greater significance than the Board a school pursues is the way they transact the syllabus. Both ICSE and CBSE tell schools what the destination is. Neither of them really tell schools what route to take to get there. To my mind, the route taken is critical and all important. We are even seeing many IB Schools in India whose routes to learning border on the traditional and veer away from the transaction methods IBO would wish to see,

2) The age that children start school here is a historical accident, for which you can blame us British! Children in UK also start far earlier than in Continental Europe.

We have to live with reality as it is, rather than as we might wish it to be. If children are starting school early, my own personal view is that we must resist all efforts to fill their days with learning lots of STUFF! The early years should look and feel more like a Playgroup than ‘school’.

I hate to see those schools who believe (usually for marketing purposes to impress parents) that it’s necessary to mug the younger children up on X number of colours, Y number of fruits and Z number of vegetable names. Whilst parents do get swayed by such things it’s no excuse – that is mugging, pure and simple.

As regards your child being amongst the youngest children in class, you only have to have read Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” to be aware of all the risks. When parents are making such decisions their focus tends to be very short term. I wish much more attention was paid to the longer term. Especially in the case of boys, we have to think not just about where the child stands vis a vis their peers today, but where they will stand later at age 14, 15, 17 or 18. If your son, at that time lacks the maturity of his peers, quite simply there is a serious risk that his efforts towards studies will mean he achieves performance well below his potential. In today’s world that can have big consequences. In the future, I hope the consequences will not be as great, but still the child will have built a hurdle that will require hard work, character and a lot of self-belief to overcome.

A piece of research published not so long ago (I think in The Lancet), stated that most children born since 2000 in the developed world (and I think that includes our children in Metro india) have an above average chance of living to 100. I live in hope that as more come to realize all the implications of this we will see less haste in education and a greater inclination to let the youngest of children take on their learning at a pace that’s consistent with their individual neurological development (instead of forcing things along as though they are hot house flowers).

3) I’ve heard this question raised by many parents confronted with the challenge of wanting to do their research on schools as thoroughly as possible, but struggling for accurate information. Over the years, most have relied on word of mouth, giving most credit to respected sources. However, this was never completely ideal, so I think it was a good thing to see a website emerge that seeks to fill this gap: Admissions Nursery . This hyperlink will take you to the website that contains lots of information, shared by parents just like you (and sometimes supplemented by representatives from the schools)

Good luck in your search. My one final thought would be not to get too anxious. When it comes down to it a child still has the lion’s share of their waking hours at home and not in school, so you and family will remain the biggest learning influences in your son’s life!

Love The Work You Do

Here’s an inspiring short piece from Dan Pink about the difference that attitude makes to the work we do;

Dan Pink – On Mastery

Some of the responses from readers at the bottom of the page are fairly predictable. I would personally disagree with those who have suggested that some jobs just have to be done for the money. When I was growing up and working my way through college I did some jobs that were really tough, that sometimes had unpleasant aspects to them. However, I believe that I always made the effort to find something meaningful in what I was being asked to do, some reason beyond the money that made me want to do that work well and to the best of my ability.

With mundane and repetitive tasks I would set times, try to beat my record etc. In short, I would do whatever it took to have a reason to do what I was doing and to do it well. Have you ever taken pride in a spotless, shining urinal? I have! And, I’m not ashamed or embarrassed to say so. When I struggled to find enough reason in a specific job, then I’d figure whether it was time to go and find some different work. What I never believed I had the right to do was to stay in that job, carp and complain about it, grumble and gripe about why I hated it, put in as little effort as possible, skive off and shirk the duties. It saddens me when I see so many people doing that, believing that the responsibility to create motivation in their work lies with their boss, their colleagues – in short, everyone but them!

I will always believe that one of the strongest determinants of long term success for anyone is their ability to love the work they do.

Reforming Teacher Professional Development

Here’s a recent article setting out an apparent planned way forward to reform teacher education.

Times of India – Teacher Education System

I wish I could read this with confidence that there was anything substantive in the proposals that would give Indian school education a genuine leap forward, that would address the fundamental issues that torture so many children and stress out so many parents who see their aspirations thwarted by teacher development systems that fail to acknowledge that teachers’ role is to prepare young people for a very different world to the one they grew up in.

Education in the Emerging World

After the recent cabinet reshuffle, Mr Shashi Tharoor has been re-inducted in to the government, this time as Minister of State in the HRD Ministry.

Here, he shares his thoughts on the key education issues to be addressed in the emerging world if the big education challenges are to be addressed. The article does quite a good job of setting out what are the key issues, but is very light on real ideas for solutions. Maybe it’s a little unfair to expect that at this stage as he’s only just joined the Ministry, but solutions are surely the need of the hour. I also feel he tries to get away with a bit of a trick when he claims that the Right to Education Act in India “has had a large impact.” Considering that in most States implementation of the Act has barely started and in some not at all, this is an extravagant and unsubstantiated claim.

Still, overall, an interesting article as a summary of where we are right now:

The Emerging World’s Education Imperative – Shashi Tharoor

More on Teacher Coaching

By coincidence, after i wrote the piece yesterday about coaching teachers, here’s a further article just received today – this time an ASCD In-Service piece advocating coaching teachers;

ASCD – Going Beyond the Scorecard

Coaching the Teachers to Coach the Students

Over the last 15 to 20 years there’s been a massive shift towards coaching as a concept for the development of human potential in the workforce. As long ago as around 1994 I attended a one-week training programme at Ashridge Management College in UK entitled ‘The Manager as Coach’. It had a strong impact on my thinking.

Over the last few years i followed with interest the way that the coaching movement was developing around the world, through membership of the US based IAC (International Association of Coaching) and Coachville. I’ve also had the opportunity to learn from and communicate with people who have chosen to work as specialist coaches either to high level corporate executives or alternatively for people who want a coach to focus on personal growth.

The first really important myth to blow out of the water is that coaching exists to ‘solve problems’, as a tool only to be drawn upon when there is a problem. sadly, we still too often see that happening, but in its ideal state it’s so much more than that. Sadly, there are those companies who call in a coach when an ‘expensive resource (i.e. highly paid executive) has a problem in their performance. However, at its best, coaching is a continuous and ongoing activity that has as its major objective enabling a person to fulfil more of their potential than they could on their own.

The Kunskapsskolan model is built on the principle of teachers acting as learning coaches to pupils, gauging their abilities to take ownership for their own learning, to develop their intrinsic motivation and to articulate and pusue their own goals (for learning and life). In such circumstances, it makes perfect sense to me that if coaching is the way for teachers to be with pupils, so it is also the way for leaders in education to be with educators.

Sadly, the agenda in many education systems has been far more driven by a sense of need to measure and assess teachers, rather than to coach them. This flows out of a ‘problem solving’ mindset that sees teachers’ efforts as inadequate and failing and in need of redressal. The reality is that on almost any day, in any conventional school, the management (Principal, V-P, supervisor, Superintendent, Director has only a superficial knowledge of how any individual teacher is doing his/ her job. If you pre-announce that you’re going to a teacher’s classroom, what you see is completely artificial. if you just suddenly turn up, the second you open the door and enter ‘their space’ you change the whole dynamics of what you’re witnessing. And if you put video cameras in to classes so that you can monitor what teachers are doing ……………… then plainly every shred of trust has gone from the system.

One of the things that excites me most about the Kunskapsskolan education model is that the open plan, no enclosed classrooms nature of the architectural design of the schools takes away all those artificial barriers. it means that all spaces are shared spaces and adults being around to witness each other’s work is completely natural. This means that assessment of what teachers are doing becomes completely unnecessary. Instead, we can focus entirely on a coaching approach based on a shared belief that insights, guidance and reflection can enable every one of us to be a continuous learner, that there is no such point of no more learning and that together we all want to do the best job possible to serve the learning of the pupils.

With these thoughts in mind, i was really pleased recently to read this Ed Week article advocating the benefits of coaching for teachers/ educators. It also contains some useful thoughts for the teachers themselves about the vital importance of being coach-able:Ed Week Article – Don’t Evaluate Teachers, Coach Them

Nikhil Goyal – An Exceptional Young Man

What mattered to you when you were 17?

My guess is, if you were anything like me, you weren’t all fired up about the state of the education system and what needed to be done to make it modern and relevant. Well, truth be told, we probably all had some opinions about the education system, but they weren’t for public consumption and we certainly weren’t writing books about it, doing TED conference speeches and debating with some of the most prominent educators on the planet.

Now, meet Nikhil Goyal – most certainly not your average 17 year old. I have no idea what credit (if any) India can claim for shaping Nikhil’s ideas. I know he’s a student at Syosset High School, New York. Over the last year, I’m not sure how much time he’s been able to spend in school judging by the amount of travelling, interviews etc. he’s been up to.

Here’s where his early ideas emerged, at a TEDx event – Global Learning School. There, he was one of a number of articulate youngsters sharing their thoughts about education:

Most recently, i was impressed by what he had to say about creativity, why the existing education systems are not helping young people to develop it effectively and suggestions and ideas for what can be done about it. This was an article he wrote for the Mindshift website;
Mindshift Article - Why Learning Should be Messy

Whilst I guess a lot of people will see the sense in the kind of 'messiness' that Nikhil's advocating, the average Indian parent would go feel pretty uneasy at the thought of such 'messiness' when there are Indian board exams down the line. I believe the Kunskapsskolan approach is going to offer us the best of both worlds. Core 'step' subjects will include English, Hindi, Maths and third language. all other subjects will be studied thematically, with lots of hands on activity to really enable children to explore the subject in depth. As they explore the themes obviously their language and communication skills come in to play here as well.

The gist of Nikhil's arguments, like those of Sir Ken Robinson and others, is that the existing education systems exist more for the sake of the system than the learners. Many of his ideas are really along the same lines as the film trailer for 'We Are The People We've Been Waiting For' that I re-posted recently. These are important matters. These are things that are going to have a fundamental impact on the world our children grow up in in the future. maybe we should really be marveling that there aren't a lot more Nikhil Goyals. Has the system really so brutalised the minds of today's youth that they accept all the nonsense that passes for education without challenge?

Here's some more of Nikhil's thoughts and ideas;

His writing for the Huffington Post: Huffington Post - Nikhil Goyal
His own website on WordPress: Nikhil Goyal
Forbes Article: Forbes - This 17 Year Old
Later TEDx presenation

Education Revolution – Teacher.com