Exam time is a period of anxiety for most parents. Once the exams are over, the students and their parents heave a sigh of relief. But their worry does not end with the exams. Fear of the results also causes anxiety. If the child is intelligent and studious, the parents have no reason to worry. But if the child has performed poorly, the parent hopes that the child will just be able to pass the exam. If the child has failed, it is as if a calamity has befallen the family. The parents lament, and try to find out what has gone wrong and the blame game begins. They blame the child for not working hard. The parents blame each other for not taking enough interest in the child’s studies. And many a time the parents find fault with the teaching system and the teachers for not taking adequate care of the child.
Praises and complaints
Take the case of a highly educated couple who have two children, one of whom is brilliant, while the other has no interest in studies. When in school the young girl is unable to concentrate on what is being taught. Everyday her mother rings up her classmate’s parents to find out what was done in the class. Parent- teacher meetings are a nightmare for the couple. While the son’s teachers heap praises on the boy, the girl’s teachers have a long list of complaints and say that they will have to withhold the child in the same class if she does not improve. Some teachers even point an accusing finger at the parents for not guiding the child enough. Being responsible for 30 or 40 students the teachers say they cannot attend to each child in the class.
Parents often feel they have failed somewhere when the child is a poor performer. Or they feel the child has not studied enough. Comparison also sets in which makes the situation worse. Parents are unable to accept that their child is different from their friend’s or relative’s child who is academically inclined and performs well. The academic failure of the child becomes a prestige issue for the parents. They do not try to find out what has gone wrong. They take out their frustration on the child and abuse the child physically and mentally.
The school policy
Most schools have a policy of promoting the child up to the primary section. Once the child leaves the primary classes and enters middle school, his or her performance is under observation. The school management realises that if the child continues in the same school, he may bring down the pass percentage of the school in the board exams. So they call up the parents and politely give them the option of pulling the child out of the school or the child repeating a class. Many parents not wanting the child to lose a year admit him or her in a lesser known school. The new school is in need of funds and admits the child. And finally when the child writes his or her exams he or she fails miserably.
Analysis of the child’s performance
The sad part is that neither the school nor the parents think of taking help from a counsellor, psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist depending on the need, to analyse the child’s performance. So many factors can come into play when a child performs poorly. A psychologist tries to find out what is hindering the learning process. First, the child undergoes a psychometric test to determine the Intelligence Quotient. If the child’s IQ is average and yet he or she performs poorly, then other tests are undertaken to identify the cause. The specific learning disability which the child is facing is identified. The disabilities can be in areas such as hearing, reading, comprehension, writing, reasoning, memory retention, etc. Once the learning disability is identified the psychologist suggests remedial measures to overcome the problem. Dyslexia is one of the most common learning disabilities. When the child has an average IQ with no learning difficulties and still gets below average marks, then factors related to environment and behaviour are looked into. A death in the family, adjustment, domestic violence, etc., can cause mental disturbance in the child and manifest itself in the studies.
The problem parent
Sometimes it is the parent who is the problem. The expectation of the parents from a child exceeds the child’s performance. Every parent knows the intelligence level of his or her child and how much they can expect from him or her if they are monitoring the child’s performance closely. After consulting a psychologist or child psychiatrist, the parents should adopt different methods of teaching to benefit the child. They should be happy if the child’s performance is average. The child should not develop inferiority complex due to parents’ scolding and teachers’ sarcastic remarks. Instead the parents and teachers should encourage the child to develop certain hobbies and excel in extra-curricular activities which will raise his self-esteem. These can be sports, dance, drama, music, art and craft, etc. When self-esteem rises, the child will perform better in academics as well and win appreciation from his parents, teachers and peers.
One of my nieces failed in her fourth standard. I advised the parents to consult a child psychologist. Through a few tests the psychologist analysed that the child had an average IQ but her fear and anxiety levels were high and were interfering with her learning. Plus her motivation level was low which was due to low self-esteem. On counselling the parents it was found that the father did not have time to explain the lessons. So he made the girl memorise the answers. The mother was unable to teach the girl as she studied in the vernacular medium. There was no motivation since the child did not have a role model to emulate. The child was never provided with story books and other reading material which prevented her from mastering language. Further, the parents used to yell at the child if she showed unwillingness to study which contributed to her anxiety. They made her sit for hours at a time to study. The parents were counselled to teach the child by new and innovative methods of learning.
Parents whose children have learning disability can join together and form a self-help group. They can employ special educators as tutors for their children. If the kids are unable to cope with the regular curriculum of the schools, they can opt for the open school examination system. Select schools where remedial measures for children with learning disabilities exist and can be considered by the parents. Some organisations are doing pioneering work in the field of learning disabilities. Find out from the internet and contact the nearest organisation which will help in identifying the disability and give remedial measures to overcome the disability. Also keep in touch with a pediatrician who has specialised in learning disabilities. NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) tests the child and certifies the learning disability. This child can avail special provisions when appearing for the board exams. For instance, they are given one hour extra to write the exam and are also provided help to read or write depending on the disability. Instead of getting depressed on the day of the results, parents can gently motivate their child with learning disability to study well and come up in life.
The author is a freelance writer and conducts soft skill programmes for schools students in Hyderabad. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Should a child be failed?
If the recently introduced Right to Education Bill becomes a law, both the private and government schools will not be allowed to force a child to repeat a year or expel students until class VIII for any reason. But for now we still have the pass and fail system that separates the best from the worst. Though we all know that every child is unique, somehow due to circumstances surrounding the child, he/she may be unable to produce good results in an exam. But, instead of discovering the qualities or uniqueness within the child, if the school and teachers fail the child or expel him/her from the school are we doing the right thing? Should a child be failed or expelled from school?
What generally happens in a school is that importance is given to the child who is good at studies. The best student or scholar award is given to children on the basis of academic achievement. We neglect the extracurricular achievement of children. A child who doesn’t really understand Science maybe good at something else like sports, music or art. Schools have to start recognising these talents as well and stop showering attention only on those who study well. When a child is failed or expelled from school do we even stop for a minute to understand the emotional turmoil that he or she will go through? It is often this tag of a failure that causes children to take the extreme step of committing suicide.
The question we need to ask ourselves as authorities is do we still rate children as successes or failures on the basis of their marks in exams alone or do we allow the children to show us how they can all be successes? After all we cannot expect one size to fit all. It is time that we as teachers and educationists let the children tell us how best we can teach them. If music is someone’s forte then let us develop methods to teach that child Science, Maths or English through music. Let us formulate systems that allow children to showcase their capabilities and potential in the best way they can and not insist that they write exams and pass in them.
The government is trying to introduce a ‘no fail system’ in every school up to class VIII. This is a step that has to be appreciated. But, the government is yet to decide whether it will simply promote the ‘academically poor’ children from class to class until they reach class VIII or provide alternative methods to test them. When every child is helped to realise how worthy and bright he is, as their teachers and guardians we would have done a good job.
The author is a teacher in Social Science at Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Raebareli, Uttar Pradesh. He can be reached at email@example.com.