After the genes that a young child inherits from parents, in all possibilities, it is his immediate environment, particularly the environment of the house/family the child is brought up in, that greatly determines his pace of learning during his early stages (like primary /upper primary classes) in the school and which has a lasting impact on his later years of learning too, to the extent that it can largely determine whether such a child would be a future genius or merely a child categorized as a SLOW LEARNER in the school. Many readers here (with regards to the slow learner) may not agree with me and disagreeing is both their right and prerogative. But while looking at this issue from the surface, mostly people jump the guns (as usually happens) and bluntly chose shifting the sole responsibility from the family environment, (that I am actually here critical about) to the schools or the teachers who teach such a child, believing that it is the school, rather a teacher who doesn’t pay sufficient attention to a certain child in the class, thereby eventually pushing him to the category of lowest performers called the SLOW LEARNERS. Thus as usual, in this subject matter too, the fingers are raised towards none other than an easy and soft target, i.e, teacher, notwithstanding the vivid fact that out of a good number of children in the class, it is usually a couple of such children that are identified as slow learners, not the whole class. Moreover in no case a teacher could be biased or having an ill will towards just one or two students amid the whole class of students for any justifiable reasons. Besides, every school in itself is essentially a place promoting equality and uniformity among all its students matter what the background of students is. And even if, for the sake of argument, we suppose such a thing being possible, then presuming all other teachers also singling out and giving the same treatment to the same one or two children would be just another level of stupidity and idiocy one can think of. In an attempt to decode certain things related to this slow learner child, let us be clear about certain things , that there is nothing like absolute slow learner existing on the face of earth. To make it simple, there’s no absolute set of attributes that qualify a child to be called or labeled as a slow learner. The fact is that being a slow learner is a relative phenomenon, as is the case with being a fast learner. And thus it is possible that a slow learner of one school could be a fast learner or even a genius of another school. And a so called slow learner of any school at present could probably have been counted as among the top or creamy layer students of the same school, some ten/twenty odd years ago. Secondly, and which actually is the core focus of this whole discourse here and which probably can help go deeper into the realms of child psychology to figure out the major cause/s that are actually responsible for creating a slow learner and that are (besides some subtle causes) fundamentally responsible for hampering their pace of learning. In this context, my personal understanding, being a teacher who is dealing with small children for many years now, somehow tells me, that this slow learning issue of children is exclusively an early age phenomenon and my observations concerning such children makes me firmly believe that this slow learning pace has a lot to do with the children’s family environments, particularly lack of a stimulating enviroment in the very families/houses where these children live, are brought up and spend the major part of the initial years of their life, particularly the preschool years which count not less than a four to five years time duration in our social settings (if govt school children are taken as a case study). Moreover there’s no denying to the fact that every house/family doesn’t offer similar or sufficient quantum of learning stimuli to their growing children at their early stages, which child psychologists particularly believe and emphasize, are extremely crucial for the development of all the mental faculties of such young budding children. And factually, this lack or the deficiency of the stimulating environments in families is there for number of reasons, as every family obviously is a different family with different set of dynamics working within it, viz, different interests, different priorities, motives, goals, challenges and difficulties faced by them as a result and reflection of the underlying philosophy or the belief system that the family is living with. And with the result, these pulls and pressures or any possible hardships or challenges that life could be throwing to some families in terms of financial constraints or in terms of some prolonged debilitating health issues of some family member in the house, which again could potentially be pushing such families of such children to severe financial crisis, or could be even posing a risk of starvation. The fact is that these are not the only reasons for families lacking a healthy environment for proper growth and constructive development of their children. It could be any reasons, like it could be a lingering toxic relationship between the parents of the child or other family members that could be making life of the whole family a hell, thereby leaving everyone in family frustrated. And such state of affairs could be turning such houses as merely an abode of despondency, hopelessness and eventually an abode of depression of pathological levels. And such pathetic situations in the families are bound to lay bad or painful imprints on the young budding minds of families which eventually manifests in them in various ways and forms like a serious issue of “Attention deficit syndrome” that’s seen in such children in classroom while the teacher is teaching as these children are often absorbed in their inner devastated worlds yet they might be physically present in the classroom. And thus obviously such atmosphere in the houses leave very less scope for the growing children to be fed with something that’s substantial and that’s particularly stimulating for the gray matter of their brain to promote in them some meaningful learning and to keep pace with the other children that they are either facing or are soon going to face once they are admitted in a school.
While I say they should be fed with something substantial, I definitely don’t just mean any material things like eatables or money that should only be provided. Rather it encompasses a host of things or activities which can be summed up as “spending a good or quality time with the children”. However this quality time spending could mean so many things and activities like listening to what children have to say regarding what they feel about different things that they see happening around. It could also mean speaking to them, telling them stories that interest them the most in a funny or playful way and drawing morals out of those stories to lay strong foundations for their beliefs and character. And indeed, it includes spending some great moments with them which can even include taking them to outings as well, because as child psychologists tells us that children being innately inquisitive in nature, they need to be fed with more and more new situations and scenarios to challenge their curious minds to draw new patterns and meanings out of it and temporarily settle their curiosity, until it takes them to a new level of curiosity and an ever increasing thirst to know more. To substantiate these observations about the effects of this heterogeneity in family environments it is often observed that the children of rich, affluent and children particularly brought up in happy and joyful families are substantially different than those having dull and depressed environments prevailing in or around their house. And experience tells us that dull and depressed families do produce deaf and dumb children, while as lively and joyful families produce children which are too much interactive and assertive as learning at young stages is majorly an outcome of interactions with children. But environments of certain unfortunate families (for above mentioned reasons and many more)is sometimes found so dull and coloured to match with that of the cemeteries, with dead silence from all the sides right, left, front and back. As compared to this, in case of the well to do families, adults consciously chose to spend a good time with growing children, as children in such houses are a priority. They are considered as hope and the future of family and accordingly given their share of attention that they deserve and resultantly such children particularly have a good amount of preschool learning while they still haven’t joined any school and such interactive feeding that they receive from the respective families later makes their transition from home to school too quite easy and a joyful thing. While in contrast, the child of a family with no reason to be happy and cheerful has usually maladjustment issues in the very beginning days of school as well, besides the later slow learning issues that give him a tag of kind of an untouchable in the class or school.
(The writer is a teacher at J&K Govt’s School Education Department. Views are his own)