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By Marizka Coetzer

Journalist


‘No child is stupid; some children are fast and some are slower,’ says UCT deputy director

The predominant reason for keeping a child back is because they were not meeting the tasks for that developmental period.


Three decades after being bullied and failing twice at school, a father of two says his self-confidence has still not recovered. Jan, not his real name, said being kept back to repeat a grade destroyed his self-confidence. “The first time it happened, I felt like my whole life was being left behind,” he said. Jan said he failed Grade 1 because his family had moved six times that year. “Repeating a grade is weird because it’s the same grade with new peers, while all your friends move on to the next grade,” he said. He added that he did not…

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Three decades after being bullied and failing twice at school, a father of two says his self-confidence has still not recovered. Jan, not his real name, said being kept back to repeat a grade destroyed his self-confidence.

“The first time it happened, I felt like my whole life was being left behind,” he said.

Jan said he failed Grade 1 because his family had moved six times that year. “Repeating a grade is weird because it’s the same grade with new peers, while all your friends move on to the next grade,” he said.

He added that he did not fit in and his peers teased him for having to repeat the year. In Grade 3 he fell sick and was again kept behind for missing a lot of school days.

“I remember being bored repeating the previous year’s work in class,” he said.

What determines whether or not a learner is promoted?

But Joanne Hardman, an associate professor and deputy director at the University of Cape Town’s School of Education, said it was tricky as some children needed to repeat a grade because they hadn’t gained the conceptual footing required to build on in the next grade.

“The decision to keep a child back must be made with an eye on how to help that child achieve during their second chance at the grade.

The predominant reason for keeping a child back is because they were not meeting the tasks for that developmental period,” she said.

Hardman said the decision to fail a child shouldn’t be made solely based on marks.

“A child might fail but still be put through because the circumstances indicate that the child is on track, but has had a bad testing experience or some other external factors are involved.

“If we keep a child back, the school must make arrangements for the child to receive additional input to help them to succeed,” she said.

“I firmly believe, in fact I know, that no child is stupid; some children are fast and some are slower.

“It doesn’t mean that some are clever and some are stupid. The child who is slower needs more assistance to reach the goal,” Hardman added.

What can parents do to assist their children?

She said parents had to look at repeating a year as something that is not a problem. “Often, I have parents getting upset that little Johnny was kept back because this is such a bad thing. Well, it’s not. It is only an indication that the child needs more time to gain the concepts.”

Hardman said parents should be encouraged to embrace repeating a grade as an opportunity, not a punishment.

“If parents see it as a punishment, the child may well decide that he/she is a stupid child and this will demotivate him/her and then become a self-fulfilling prophecy,” she said.

Schools must provide the child with additional input to assist them to achieve and grasp the concepts.

ALSO READ: How to support a child that fails matric

– marizkac@citizen.co.za

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