Fail the method, not the child

It was John Holt who famously said, fail the method, not the child, back in the 1970s. However, this seems so difficult in practice. When we say ‘fail’ it doesn’t necessarily mean a failure at an examination or at the end of an academic year. Often one finds that a child who has a lot of potential doesn’t show the zeal to actualize it. Then there are students who don’t finish their assignments on time or give in incomplete work. You also have students who are weak and no matter how much you goad them, do not show much improvement. At such times the teacher is apt to get frustrated that despite her sincere efforts, the child seems disinclined to cooperate.

Often the teacher blames the child or even their backgrounds for their poor attitude’. This mostly leads to a battle of wits between the teacher and student resulting in escalating tensions.

This is where it is important for educators to mull over what John Holt said. In a study done, it was found that only 20% of teachers in France adjust their methods to individual ability, compared to 65% of those in Norway. (Economist, September 30th, 2017). This shows that in some countries there is recognition of the importance of using different methods and strategies with different students in class. This requires a teacher to be sensitive to the needs of each student in the class, the belief that there is a solution to the difficulties the child is facing and fortitude and dynamism to try out varied strategies.

How often have we experienced such a teacher in our school or college life? If indeed 65% of teachers in Norway have learnt to adjust their methods to individual ability, then there is hope that one day our school heads will also expect this of their teachers and accordingly train and orient them. That will indeed lead to a revolution in our education system.

Viraj Naidoo, Academician.
Academic Co-ordinator @ The Peepal Grove School, an alternative school in India Reach out to him on LinkedIn

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