The new school year is upon us and students are settling in to new schools, new classes, new teachers, and a new lot of learning. It is a time of year when parents are often anxious about how their children will cope with all these changes and innovations. Needless to say it is a very stressful time of year. What makes it more so is that parents feel more and more at a disadvantage as far as helping their children with their school work. Methodologies change with new insights into learning demanding that teachers stay on their toes to keep up with the latest fashions. What did happen to the good old ‘Three Rs’ and is it really necessary to keep reinventing the wheel?
One of the reasons for the work in designing new curriculum and methodologies is that the Education Department needs to encompass a huge range of students, not only in terms of ability, but in terms of geography and ethnicity. In the attempt to do their best for everyone and maintain equal opportunities and equity, the system becomes too complex, unwieldy and, in the end, often fails to serve those for whom it was designed. The system cannot possibly cater for such diversity. Clearly, it is a case of losing sight of the trees in looking at the forest. Meanwhile our little saplings are trying to grow into the strong fine trees we wish them to be; each one of them an individual with individual needs and rate of development. Some will thrive under the canopy of the education system, others will struggle.
Children do not develop at a standard rate. Their progress is not uniformly consistent with what needs to be taught according to the curriculum. Even if children are developmentally ready, they are often pumped so full of knowledge that they do not have time to assimilate it all and so ‘own’ the knowledge. As one bright young man in year 3 put it: “I know so much, I forget”. He does not have enough opportunity to assimilate what he has been taught in the rush to teach him the next thing. There seems never to be enough time to cover the curriculum and to allow for the process of learning. If I may return to the metaphor of the cultivation of trees, it is similar to forcing plants in a greenhouse and feeding them agricultural strength fertiliser, prior to being planted out in a plantation, rather than nurturing the saplings with organic compost, which of course takes longer, but produces better results.
This is why tutoring is so valuable. It allows for the individual in terms of needs and development. I think I speak for all tutors when I say that we take both pride and pleasure in being able to tailor tasks to the individual student’s needs and level of development. It allows us to consolidate what the student has learnt at school or fill in the gaps which hinder progress. It helps the students to grow into fine trees full of knowledge.