I have been affiliated with the profession of Pre-Primary education, both as a parent and as a professional for over 15 years now. It is my interest to observe the process of imparting education to the small innocent children, and notice challenging issues; to constantly evolve and improve. I often make notes on such issues and do my own study or analysis. I analyse the various ways to bring in positive changes towards ameliorating these challenges. Revisiting such issues often is something which I do, to find newer solutions. In many cases, I have included these in workshops and talks that I undertake for Teachers as part of ‘Training the Trainers’ or while interacting with Parents.

         I recollect analysing the ‘Learning Pace’ of children studying in one class. It was about 12 years ago when I dwelled on this subject after I noticed that while all children in a class were being taught by the same teacher using the same teaching methods, some children were fast to learn as compared to others. I quickly concluded that there could be many reasons for this, the attentiveness, background, understanding, alertness, basic uptake, environment, etc. However, I decided to analyse the issue of the differential in the developmental domain. No, I am not talking about special children here. I am talking of children of the same class with similar environmental factors.

         Many years back in time, my son was just 3 years old, I recollect, I was informed by my son’s teacher that he was not able to cope up with the studies(the set curriculum for k1). As a parent, it was a matter of serious concern for me, though he was not the only such child in the class. My inquisitiveness made me realise that while he was of the same age bracket, he was relatively younger in the class, by few months though. This may have been the reason why he was a slow learner.

         Let me explain it further. As per age bracket of admissions, a class shall permit children of the same age (years) in a bracket between 01 April of a year to 31 March of the next year. This creates a divide of one year between children of the same class. The child born on 01 Apr 2000 is one year elder to the child born on 31 Mar 2001, but they both are in the same class. This creates a difference in the capability of the children. As the development process is a factor of time, especially in the formative phase of the first five years, the visible effects of this are more pronounced during pre-primary learning. My son is born on 22 January; hence, this made him a slow learner. The teachers generally keep the pace of the class as per the children doing the activities in a planned time interval, which is set as per the performers in the class. They, when analysed, were born between April to June.

         Having arrived at such a conclusion, I decided to test it with some data. As a School Coordinator, I told the teachers to identify the slow learners in their class and maintain data of the date of their birth. There were close to 1000 children in my school, out of which, 300 were identified as slow learners. 90% of these children were born in the last quarter, i.e. between January and March. The data adequately proved that age was a major factor in the learning pace of a child. My study did not stop I requested many schools to share the data of their classes and got the same result. Malcolm Gadwell, in his book ‘Outliers’, provides extensive data to further prove the pace difference in soccer players.

I would not blame any teacher or the school. I feel the reason remains. The set core curriculum, the timeframe to finish and teachers taking brighter students as the benchmark as the efforts put on them is comparatively less. If ever the teachers set the pace of the class as per the youngest children in the class. The one in April to March Bracket steal the class by distracting the class.

Why is it important for teachers to manage the pace? The effects of the differential learning pace on the children can be-

  1.  If the child gets conscious of the slow learning pace, the child may sink into a cocoon and start hating coming to school.
  2.  Parents get conscious with teachers remarks and start feeling, why my child? This unknowingly gives pressure to the child both in school and at home, which rather than improving can further slowdown.
  3. While few may exhibit ‘fight’ reaction and recover, most children of that age would show ‘flight’ reaction and miss out on certain phases of learning altogether.

         So, if the age of the child has a direct effect on the learning pace of a child, how does the teacher go about addressing this challenge? I have a few suggestions which I have successfully put to practice in various schools and also discussed often with teaching faculty during training workshops.

  1. Firstly, the teacher should understand the concept of ‘Learning Pace’ of children and the reasons for it. She should keep a record of the children as per the ability based on the pace of their learning.
  2. The teacher should be able to pitch the pace of teaching as per the abilities of the average child in the class.
  3. Extra effort should be put to encourage the children in the lower bracket of the pace; the so-called ‘fast’ learners should be used to assist.
  4. The teacher should interact with the parents and let them know of the reasons for the learning pace. The extra efforts being put on the slow learners should be a joint effort of the parents and the teachers.
  5. Both teacher and parents need to understand the developmental domains of children.

It’s been thirteen years since I have done my study of learning pace. Till today whenever a teacher or parents talk about the child not performing, the first thing I ask is the date of birth.  This gives me the reason and background for the child not performing in the set curriculum and time frame. Till the time system does not change the gap of learning pace will always be towards the child and the youngest will lose out without any reason for them to lose out.

Age gap has been the reason in most of the concerns. There are other short terms reasons as well which make the child not perform, show tantrums, clown or are withdrawn the reasons are majorly death in the family, the birth of a sibling, illness, fights in the family, accident, happy occasions, family trips. Etc. These though are short term gaps in learning pace which are recovered over a period of time and effort.

Learning is not ‘Rat Race’, it is a matter of pride and Pleasure. For children of Pre-Primary, it should be a part of a play, they need to enjoy it. The overall development is a slow and continuous process in the initial years. If this issue is understood by the faculty and parents, it can be a major factor for easing the education of children.

Have you had similar experiences in your journey as a parent or teacher? Would you want to contribute anything else on this issue? Do share your views on how you are a champion who can bring out the best in their children.

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