ARE our schools doing enough to help students who are performing below average in their studies?
With schools aspiring to achieve high-performance status, their focus seems to be on the average, better-than-average and way-above-average students.
These students are sure bets to secure good results in public examinations and, thus, help bring honour to the school.
Ever wonder why in many schools today, primary as well as secondary, some schoolchildren are simply left on their own?
The teachers are not motivated; neither do they motivate students in these classes. The students are considered hopeless cases.
They are judged as lagging too far behind because they have not mastered the fundamentals of any subject, are lacking in language skills, indisciplined and, therefore, labelled as a difficult lot to be taught.
Schools are assiduously selective in implementing their improvement programmes. Students are streamed based on their performance in earlier school exams.
For classes in examination years, the best teachers are assigned to the best classes, while difficult teachers go to difficult classes.
Some difficult classes are even deprived of using science laboratories and special teaching rooms purportedly due to a lack of facilities and to prevent vandalism.
Schools have done their maths and know the best strategy to secure those high-percentage passes and top grades in public exams.
All schoolchildren deserve equal attention and assistance in school.It becomes all right to sacrifice a class or two, so long as the best classes are pushed to their limits.
The perception is that it is no use working on hopeless classes.
Their improvement, if any at all, will have little impact on the overall results, which are what really matters.
The Literacy and Numeracy (Linus) programme has ensured that students master the basics in languages and Mathematics.
It does not, however, prescribe that students must master the different subjects for exams.
Students who begin to lag behind in their early years of studies, for instance, during Year 1 to 3 in primary school, will find it tough as they are automatically promoted every year.
By the time they reach secondary school, they are totally lost. And, secondary school teachers complain that they are no longer salvageable.
For those who want to study, the so-called remedial classes are just a token, carried out lukewarmly, if at all. Schools are more driven into enrichment rather than remedial programmes for there is where the honours and rewards are.
Granted that there are students who are not studying and performing for a myriad of reasons beyond the jurisdiction of the school. There are also those in their midst who are lost not of their own doing, nor for want of trying. These are the poor ones that schools must help.
Have schools done any survey or possess any means to separate the wheat from the chaff?
In their pursuit for excellence, perhaps schools need to give fair consideration to the needs of below-average performers.
No doubt, greater effort and much hard work are required, but all children who want to study deserve the attention and help their schools can give.
Perhaps the Education Ministry should also look at what and how schools are doing for the lowest 20 per cent of their students.
What is the grade pattern for these 20 per cent of students in the various subjects they take?
Have they shown any improvement over the years? Or, is this simply the neglected group whose grades distribution is "flat" throughout the years -- hovering at D, E and F in primary school, or E and G in secondary school?
It is time the ministry assessed and audited schools by looking at the other end of their performance curves or graphs.
Such assessments and audits may indicate indiscriminate ways schools educate their charges.
By Liong Kam Chong, Seremban, Negri Sembilan | firstname.lastname@example.org