Grouping by Ability

Many schools have an Abilities Section. By definition the more “academically able”, intelligent and talented are put in this section. Equally, by the same definition the remaining “average” students are dumped in the other sections. As a rule, more of the resources and efforts of the school are put into the children in the teaching the Abilities Sections.

As a parent your support for this system is probably dependant upon which category your children fall in. However some facts need to be kept in mind before making a judgement: –

Children in non-abilities sections tend to suffer from

  • low self-esteem.
  • Low motivation.
  • Negative belief in their own ability to succeed in life.
  • Loss of a healthy sense of competition.
  • sense of shame that will be carried into adulthood.
  • A sense of failure.
  • Resentment.
    Children in abilities sections tend to suffer from
  • A belief of their own worth only in terms of marks and grades
  • A narrow exposure to only one category of students.
  • A false sense of superiority and a lowered tolerance for differences.
  • No real preparation for facing a world where marks and special treatment do not solely determine success or failure.
  • A constant sense of anxiety at the thought of not being able to stay in the abilities section.

Another major disadvantage of grouping is that it focuses only on one kind of intelligence – academic. Different children have different strengths, and different types of intelligence ranging from mechanical to spatial to linguistic. Each type has its own special role to play in life and no one ability can be said to have a monopoly on intelligence or success. Further this type of categorisation is also discriminatory for quieter or shy children. In actual fact, their inability to speak up in class should have no bearing on their intelligence, but under such a system they can be easily classified as “non-ability.”

Grouping according to ability sets up its own vicious cycle – the motivated abilities students perform better, get more informational help and challenge their teachers to greater heights. As a result they do even better. The converse is true of the non-abilities section, the word itself contributing to a survival of the fittest mentally.

Grouping does have certain advantages. In an overpopulated country with 40-80 children per classroom, it ensures that the gifted are not reduced to mediocrity because of lack of attention. It is in the interests of all to ensure that the gifted children find an opportunity to realize their best potential. The question is should this be at the cost of all others?

If your chosen school has this kind of grouping, you can minimize the evils by

  • Making your views known – to the children, to teachers and to other parents.
  • Make a fuss at PTA meetings.
  • Encouraging your children not to accept the stereotypes attached to such groups.
  • Teaching them, that in life, there is place for different skills and temperaments.
  • voiding rejection or disapproval of your child on the basis of such groupings.
  • If possible avoid sending your child to a school with groupings.
  • Regardless of the labels, encourage your child to make the most of his own special (and unique) talents and strengths.
  • Don’t make comparisons.
  • Get your child to take an aptitude test to determine the nature of his ability.

Find out what our Child Development expert has to say about aptitude tests and the different abilities children have.

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