An acquaintance of mine, Sarla, was faced with a problem last year that is so common that I thought I would write about it. She has a daughter, Mala, who is bright, charming and very popular. Unfortunately, though intelligent, she is not academically inclined, and does not do particularly well in her examinations. When, once again, she did badly in the terminal exam, there was a real fear that she would not be promoted at the end of the year.
Mala’s parents were, quite understandably, extremely anxious. They are unusually pragmatic about their daughter, and accept that she is never going to shine academically. Rather than push their child, they were reconciled to her being kept down and repeating the year.
Ironically, at the previous parent-teacher’s meeting, her class teacher had been very sympathetic and understanding. She had assured Mala’s parents that the child was not unintelligent, and indeed was a very active member of the class, participating in lessons with interest and attention. Furthermore, she had no complaints about lack of application or criticism of work not being done. Indeed, the teacher herself was distressed at Mala’s results, and expressed a desire to help in whatever way she could. So when Sarla received a summons from the principal the following week, she was sure that it was in order to have a constructive discussion on what could be done to help Mala overcome the mental block she had about exams.
This, however, it turned out, was not the principal’s intention at all. She had sent for Mala’s mother to warn her that if her daughter did not pass the final exam, she would have to be withdrawn! To say that Sarla was shocked is to put it mildly. It was inconceivable to her that the principal of a reputable school could so blithely jettison a child for failing in an exam in spite of working hard. It seemed to be the very antithesis of what education should be.
The tragedy of our overcrowded schools today is that those who set themselves up as educationists have evolved their own definition of the word ‘education’ and that is, not the over-all development of a child, but simply the obtaining of high marks in examinations. Equally, they see a ‘good’ school as one that demonstrates good examination results. No accommodation is made for children unable to keep up . Where slow learners or children with learning disabilities are concerned, such ‘good’ schools prefer to believe they simply do not exist.
But do good examination results achieved through a process of screening reflect good teaching' Or, by getting rid of ‘failures’, and thereby acknowledging their inability to teach any but the academically clever, are such schools not admitting to being failures themselves'