by Jolyn Low
Today I read that my alma mater would be abolishing the grouping of students into top classes and I completely approve. This means that there would no longer be EM1/EM2/EM3 classes, or the perceived ‘elite’ students and stigma of being in a lower ranking class anymore. Everyone, be it those who struggle with mathematics or those who excel in english would be mixed into classes with no regards to their academic ability.
I see it as a fantastic initiative that can boost a child’s self-esteem and encourage socialising with other children. The current system segregates the students too harshly. And whilst it gives those at the top an ego boost because they are (and they know that they are) amongst the brightest academically, it really takes a toll on the rest of the students. When I was tutoring my primary schoolers they would always lament that they were ‘stupid’ and hence unable to do well or understand. And they are only 9 and 10 years old. Even in the secondary school that I was attached to – the students knew that they were not academically inclined, and hence had no motivation to try at all just because they felt like the system will not accommodate them anyway.
Whilst it is understandable why schools would want to group students by their different academic abilities for the ease of teaching and organisational purposes, there is no legitimate reason for doing so. Ultimately, all students would be sitting for the same examination. And the pace at which they cover material should not differ all that much, and neither should the quality of the material either. As someone who has always experienced being ‘not good enough’, told by my very own teachers that I was not capable of entering ‘good schools’ and attaining the coveted As simply because I didn’t perform outstandingly in their class, I think that there needs to be less of a focus on academic grades and performance because they are not the only things that matter in life.
If I ever have a primary school aged child, I’m definitely sending them to a primary school for an education where class doesn’t matter. What matters is their exposure, that they develop the social skills that are essential for life both inside and outside school and that they are confident yet humble about their abilities. I reckon that they’ll even receive a better education than I did, for they would have the opportunity to interact and learn with and from students of all different strengths. And I would not have to worry about the labels that divide society infiltrating something as developmentally important as a classroom.