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"The Single Greatest Factor In Education"
By Vasanth Kuppuswamy
Eighth Grade
Buist Academy, Charleston, South Carolina
January 2004

Education is one of the most important influences in a person’s life. It is essential for success in the real world today. Although education is valued differently in a variety of places and situations, the single most important factor in determining a good education is someone who believes in that student. From my own teaching experience in India, I know exactly why.

In a rural village in India last summer, I learned education without someone to believe in you isn’t worth anything. Just as fire cannot leap into flames without oxygen, the dreams of students who are given information by educators who fail to believe in them cannot be ignited. Before I even embarked on the journey to teach the students in India that I had volunteered to instruct, I had a long talk with the principal. With a brutal honesty and a defeated spirit, he said that nothing goes to the kids’ brains, and that “I was wasting my time.”

But I wouldn’t surrender the idea or the time that I had set aside to work with these students. Lying in my bed the night before I began, I reconsidered what the principal had said and became disgusted. It seemed as if he was giving up and urging me to do so before I ever started. So, I knew what to do.

Starting out the next day, I was equally frank with these eleven-year-old students. I told the kids that I believed in them. I told them they were destined for better things rather than becoming servants, shepherds, or farm hands. I gave them an extensive speech on how they could accomplish more than what their parents had. They had to believe in themselves as much as I believed in them. The end result was that most of them rose to the occasion.

Learning the basics of English and even some essential reading, we shared a bridge that enabled us to connect in a special way. Of course, we connected in other more personal ways playing football and Ultimate Frisbee. When I prepared to leave, I had to transfer the keys to their minds back to the principal who would once again become their teacher. Because he had seen the change in the student performances and attitudes as their eyes sparkled with questions while I worked with them, the principal vowed to try harder to inspire these kids and to believe in them.

Now, whenever I reflect on that experience last summer, I realize what the significance is of having someone believe in you. For those students in that remote area of India, I had become that person, the one who believed in them, the oxygen that fueled their flames. In the process of teaching those students and believing in them, I inspired others such as parents, teachers, and even the principal, and most importantly the students themselves. It is the belief in the students that is the most important factor in education, especially among those kids who lack any believers at all.


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