With just two months left for the academic year to come to a close, schools are concerned about how to give feedback to students. Teachers say students today are more sensitive, have behavioural problems and in some instances are even rebellious.

The murder of a schoolteacher by her student in the classroom has turned the spotlight on the approach the teachers should adopt when it comes to advising the students on their performance. The class IX student was upset with the remarks the teacher made in his school diary – an old practice that many schools still follow to inform the parents about their ward's performance.

The ‘no detention policy' that schools have to mandatorily follow until class VIII as a provision under the Right to Education (RTE) Act is another concern that is worrying most schools. Previously, if a student failed in three subjects an instant examination was conducted, thus offering him/her one more chance. However, the option has been deleted under the RTE rules. “Some students are not fit to be promoted to the next class. But this provision in the Act only gives students an easy route to pass, some without even studying,” says a government schoolteacher. Although the objective of the rule is to not deprive any child of formal education up to the age of 14, experts say it is also the responsibility of the government and schools to ensure that such ‘slow learners' or ‘poor performers' are provided extra coaching.

Padma Srinath, educationist, says: “The idea of putting off a child with a comment should be more a direction towards correction, not a comment of judgment.” She says red mark, a colour that visibly puts one off, is not looked at favourably; therefore black or blue should be preferred. “A teacher's role is how can you make a child sense accomplishment and his/her effort should be fruitful,” she says. If written feedback does not fetch results, find a way such that the student will listen or speak to the teacher, she says. Appreciate the good part of the child and first list the positive. Experts say counselling sessions should be conducted in schools.

Besides doing away with words such as ‘poor', ‘average', ‘excellent' or ‘good', the progress report card of CBSE schools have specific guidelines called ‘descriptive indicators' for teachers. Teachers are instructed not to label students ‘slow, poor or intelligent'. Amrita Vidyalayam Senior Secondary School, Nesapakkam, has a different marking system for the ‘slow learners' and a different question paper for some children.

“Dyslexia is one disorder that at least two or three students are generally identified with in every class, and resource persons from the Madras Dyslexia Association assess them,” says Kaveri Hariharan, teacher with the school. She says such children are identified in the primary classes itself. Also, in primary classes flexibility is offered for students who cannot take a written exam. All these have more or less ensured that when a child comes to high school, he/she performs well, she adds.

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Liffy ThomasJune 28, 2012