The Chinese tv series Tiger Mom (2015) tries to answer the question why Chinese mothers are superior to others. In Beyond the Tiger Mom: East-West Parenting for the Global Age, Maya Thiagarajan, a born and breed Indian, landed 5 years ago in Singapore after years of education and teaching in the U.S., looks at differences between Western and Asian parenting and education styles. Interviews, literature, personal experiences as parent and teacher, and tips is packed in this rich and inspiring book.
Why is math more popular in Asia, and why are so much books for children and teens being published in the U.S.? Why are Asian playgrounds empty and tuition classes full? Are stereotypes of individualism and extended families reflecting reality? Are all Asian countries similar? The author not only devotes a lot of pages on the rationale for mathematical A scores, the role of technology and the challenges for contemporary teachers. Books on 21st century skills, from Ian Gilbert’s Why Do I Need a Teacher when I’ve Got Google? to Sal Khan’s bestseller The One World Schoolhouse urge teachers to act as mentors, guides, and facilitators? As parents we prime our children by choosing to read from legends and epics, stressing the importance of success and mastery, as well as granting play time.
There’s a lot of content to reflect on. From the amount of allowed screen time, use of technology in classes, memorizing content to the freedom to experiment and fail. Do you agree with failures teaching us humility and endurance? Did you ever consider pressure and competition also could invoke suicidal behavior in children and adolescents? Do we still treasure communities, extended families, allo-parenting, and respect for elders? Core values such as filial piety, courage, and individual growth are at stake. Do we leave parenting to parents, education to teachers, or do we mix and take our common responsibilities? Are government run media campaigns on racial harmony, kindness and speaking good English, like Singapore does, a brilliant idea or a bridge too far? Thiagarajan concludes that as parents striving to raise our children in a globalized world, we all have a lot to learn from each other. I fully agree.
About the author
Maya Thiagarajan was raised in Chennai India, by her South Indian father and American mother. After high school, Maya left India and moved to the US. She earned a BA in English from Middlebury College and a Masters in Education Policy from Harvard University. Maya started her teaching career at a tough urban public school in Baltimore City and later went on to teach at some of America’s most prestigious independent schools. In 2009, Maya moved to Singapore where she now teaches students from around the world at an international school. Over half her students are South Asian or East Asian, deepening her understanding of Asian family values and Asian approaches to education. Maya has two children aged 5 and 8.