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Tuesday, January 02, 2001

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Remedial teaching for slow learners

REMEDIAL TEACHING is identifying slow learners and giving them the necessary guidance to help them overcome their problems, after identifying their areas of difficulty. Contrary to what is said, remedial teaching is done perfunctorily without identifying their areas of difficulty and underlying cause for lagging behind. Some students are unsympathetically branded as `block heads' without an earnest attempt to know the real cause of their slow learning.

Slow learners

Who is a slow learner? In the present system of education, students are identified as slow learners purely on the basis of their poor performance in the examination, which, in most cases deviates from what is taught. Consequently even talented students are sometimes misconstrued as dullards. So, a slow learner is one whose performance is very dismal in the examination. He is neither mentally retarded nor is on the lower rungs of intelligence scale.

The reasons for some students learning slowly are innumerable. One of the main reasons is the `no detention system' at the primary and upper primary level. Students are promoted to higher classes on the basis of attendance, even if they score low marks. The heterogeneous composition (mental age & physical age) of over crowded classes in all government run schools and private schools also produces slow learners. So the incapacity of the teacher to pay individual attention to a student over a long period makes a student a slow learner. A slow learner is thus a product of negligence of school at different stages of learning, inspite of his innate capacity to learn.

There are some problems very specific to the individual. Ill health, lack of concentration, less exposure to the subject taught and parental background are some causative factors for slow learning. Talents differ. A childs capacity to learn different subjects varies from student to student. For instance, learning mathematics is a knack. All students do not do well in mathematics just as they do in other subjects. While other subjects can be learnt at any stage, it is very difficult for students to learn mathematics without the basics. Students show interest in the subjects they like and neglect other subjects if not taken care of. An urban child learns languages like English well while a rural child cannot, however well the teacher tries to explain.

Remedial measures

Learning takes place from simple to complex. If for some reason the student has not learnt the basics, it is futile to teach him the advanced topics. Remedial teaching is not revising the topics taught repeatedly. Careful analysis of the students' performance in the examination and diagnosing the areas of difficulty are key aspects in remedial teaching. Once the difficult areas are identified, the next task is to plan the learning experiences to teach the basics to understand the given topic.

Teachers often feel that what has not been learnt at the primary level, cannot be taught simultaneously with the prescribed topics at the secondary level as they are busy completing the syllabus. Experience shows that once the basics are taught, the learning process is accelerated and the slow learners comprehend and grasp the given topics of the class, since they have already attained the mental age.

In government run residential schools in Andhra Pradesh and Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas nation wide, the students are admitted in class VI based on a selection test consisting of a variety of questions to test intelligence and aptitude of the students.

It has been observed that many students thus selected do not possess the basics which they are supposed to learn at the primary level. But these schools have produced excellent results over the years by introducing bridge courses in their academic planning.

Subjects like physics pose difficulty for students when compared to biology. In biological sciences, students can see and find meaning in what they study. Whereas physics is somewhat intricate and difficult for students without good knowledge of mathematics. Poor performance in physics can be remedied by first teaching the required basic mathematical operations. Sometimes language becomes a barrier for students to understand the vast areas in subjects like geography. The innumerable new words used to describe various phenomena baffle the students. Students do not find these words in English language textbooks although they learn English language to pursue others subjects in an inter- disciplinary approach. The teacher has to explain all the words and their usage related to his subject before he teaches the concept.

The new words used in questions could confuse students and elicit wrong answers from them. Students should be exposed to a variety of questions with antonyms and synonyms - all the words used to frame a question to test the topic taught. Merely tagging the slow learners with bright students or segregating them into separate sections will not help the slow learners. Slow learners harbour themselves unobtrusively in the group of bright students.

Students learn a lot from the peer group. Unconscious learning does not take place if students are segregated. Keeping the slow learners in the peer group of bright students and paying individual attention to them by the teacher will enable them to overocme their difficulties.

Student is central in the learning process. The learning experiences should be activity-oriented and the teaching should motivate and create interest in the student to learn on his own. When group discussions are held in the classroom, the slow learners are benefited much.

Suitably tailored lesson plan by the teacher and careful monitoring by the school administration will help slow learners have a better grasp of all lessons in schools.

Y. SREEDHAR RAO

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