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Learning difficulties and educational failure in the primary and middle school years

  • Primary and middle schools, especially those located in lower socio-economic communities, often are challenged by low school enrolment, irregular attendance, high drop out rates and poor academic record. It is estimated that approximately 110 million children are out-of-school in India and these are almost exclusively children who live in poverty.

  • Our early surveys showed that close to 40% of children studying in Corporation and Government schools in Bangalore city dropped out of school at Class 4. Another set of surveys across about 1200 parents of children who had ‘failed’ at Class 4, indicated that parent motivation to keep the child in school, went down when school-centred education resulted in the child failing. Further, the child’s role got re-defined as the caretaker of siblings, a helper at home (particularly with the girl child), or as a worker who contributes to the family income. This could signal the beginning of child labour and ultimately to the child remaining trapped in the cycle of poverty.

  • The key issue is the viability and quality of the schooling opportunity that is offered to families in poverty. While a significant amount of resource has been directed toward boosting enrolment into primary school, attempts to improve the quality of teaching-learning in education services (mainly Government and Corporation schools) have only been sporadic. It is not surprising then that poor in-school learning environments coupled with the child’s own impoverished home and socio-economic environment leads to academic under performance and failure.

  • There is an urgent need for research on responsive teaching methodologies that take into account the socio-cultural realities and the cognitive profiles of children in poverty. The language discontinuities between home and school, the nature of the script that is the medium of instruction and the ‘pedagogically induced’ reading difficulties are some of the issues that have been receiving some attention in the last couple of decades. Indeed, success in school would not only mean access to knowledge (an important human development indicator), but would also prevent the consequences of continuous failure experiences on emotional health and personal development.

Related Links
Programmes for Assisted Learning (PAL)
Chili Pili Mela
Learning to Read in Bengali
Reading Difficulties in Kannada
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