WITH schools in celebration mood after the recently announced 2011 SPM results, a pertinent question to ask is: Are our schools doing enough to help students who are below-average and way-below-average in their studies?
With schools eagerly aspiring to achieve high-performance-school (HPS) status, their main focus seems to be on the “average”, “better-than-average” and “way-above-average” students.
These students are perceived to be the “sure bets” to secure good grades in public exams and therefore bring honour to their school. They are the more treasured students.
Any wonder then that in many schools some classes both at primary and secondary school level 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 since they are lagging too far behind. Why? Because they don’t seem to have language skills; no idea and knowledge of the subjects taught and are undisciplined.Schools are assiduously selective in implementing their improvement programmes. Students are streamed based on their performances in earlier school exams. For classes in examination years (i.e. the UPSR / PMR / SPM classes), the “best” teachers are assigned to the “best” classes while “difficult” teachers get the “difficult” classes. Some “difficult” classes are even deprived of the use of science laboratories and special purposed rooms purportedly due to lack of facilities and or to prevent vandalism.
Schools have done the mathematics and strategise accordingly on how best to secure those high percentage passes and top grades in public exams. The school authorities think that it is alright to “sacrifice” a class or two so long as the best classes are pushed to their limits in their scoring. The perception is that it is no use working on the “hopeless” classes.
Their improvement, if any at all, will have little impact on the overall results which is what really matters to the schools.
The Literacy and Numeracy (LINUS) programme has ensured that students master the very basics in languages and Mathematics. It does not, however, prescribe that students must also master the different subjects for exams.
Students who have begun to lag behind in their earlier years of study, for instance during the level one (Years One to Three) in primary school, will find the going tougher and tougher 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.”
There are supposedly remedial lessons/classes for those who are keen to study but they are in effect half-hearted attempts by the school authorities and do not bring about the desired results.
Schools are more driven by enrichment rather than remedial programmes for there is where the honour and rewards are. Granted that there are students who are not studying and performing for a myriad of reasons, there are also in their midst students who are lost not out not of their own doing nor for want of trying. These are the children, whom the schools MUST help.
Have schools done any survey or possessed any means to separate the wheat from the chaff?
In their pursuit for excellence, perhaps schools need also to give fair consideration to the needs of the below-average performers. No doubt, greater efforts and much hard work are required in this area. But, all children who want to study deserve all 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% of their students. What patterns are the grades distributions for this group of students in the various subjects they take? Have they shown any improvement over the years? Or, this is simply the neglected group whose grades distribution is “flat” all through the years concerned; hovering at grades “D-E-F” or have they remained unchanged?
It is time the Education Ministry also assesses and audits schools looking at the other end of their performance curve or graphs. Such assessments and audits are indicative of the true and indiscriminate efforts by schools in educating their charges.
LIONG KAM CHONG Via e-mail
Source: The STAR Online Sunday April 08, 2012