WE often tell pupils they just need do their best, implying that this will be acceptable to us, their teachers. Do we really mean it?
Do we embrace those who do not meet the set standard to be promoted? What happens to those who simply cannot cope at high school? How early can these problems be identified, and do we have a system in place to provide assistance in terms of appropriate placement?
We are once again enrolling Grade 8 pupils for the new academic year. Some will be arriving without the necessary reading and writing skills. This immediately places the new pupil at a huge disadvantage.
When this is added to the experience of moving to a new school environment, and moving from being a big fish in a little pond to a little fish in a big pond, the prospect of coping with high school can be daunting indeed.
High school pupils sit for external exams in Grades 9, 11 and 12. It is only in Grade 8 that we have the opportunity to let a pupil progress without his/her meeting the set criteria. You do this hoping the pupil will somehow catch up, but in most cases, he/she is being set up for failure in the next grade. These are the pupils who find schooling to be a nightmare. Thus, they often find ways to be out of class. They find acceptance among pupils who are experiencing similar problems and generally operate in a sort of gang culture.
Make no mistake, being unable to cope is very stressful. Repeatedly failing tests, not handing in work, etc, are all part of what is a negative, frustrating experience for the pupil who will join the increasingly large number of school dropouts. Yes, even in Grade 8.
These are the thoughts of Paterson principal, Doctor Siven Pillay, that believes there are many schools in the Northern Areas who are struggling with the same problem.