One of these days, I’ve been going through Science magazines from the 70’s and 80’s. And I’ve been immensely inspired by quite a number of articles. One article that really disturbed me was…uh..’Science for the special child’ by Ian J. Townsend, Mill Chase County Secondary School, Bordon in ‘The School Science Review’ (June 1971). I read only the preamble, but I got his point. (Bordon is a town in the dist. of Hampshire, England,btw.)
His definition for a special child ‘is one, who in the middle years of his secondary education is unable to even follow a well-structured course due to his inability to express himself in the basic skills.’. He goes on to say such a child falls on the borderline between ‘Newsom’ and ‘Remedial’.
And I immediately started relating it to the classroom environment in India.Now we know that a child is given a choice of ‘ if or not’ he or she wants to pursue her education with science as a subject only by around 16 years of age. So it is necessary that he/she attains the minimum required marks till then to go ahead (with life). If you have had your education in India, you know the kind of education system we have here. It is really difficult for any child to be motivated into pursuing science, leave alone a ‘special child’.
And there is also this question ‘Why is it necessary for a special child to do science?’ The reason I’d say, is that some of them are incredibly creative. And science is a creative subject. Science requires a vivid imagination and an active mind which these kids have. Apart from this of course, is the obvious fact that any child will have to live in a society flooded with scientific references. So it is really not fair to give them education without teaching them science.
In India, the student to teacher ratio is 40:1 in most schools. This makes it difficult for the teacher to actually focus on one individual who is perhaps under-performing or showing near nil progress. Such a child is generally subject to shame and embarrassment in front of his /her peers. And repeated questioning. (‘What is your problem, Jammy? Am I not teaching you? Pass mark you can’t score?’). This helps in only severely damaging the special child’s self-esteem. A special child’s problem is that his powers of concentration are near absent and this leads to poor powers of retention.However,the teachers are not to be blamed; the stress in the system of education in India lies solely on the examination. It is absolutely necessary for schools to show an impeccable academic record.
Given the low attention-span of a special child, how can it be made possible to hold his/her interest? Although, for most part of education we are taught verbally, there are many ways in which a child can learn-using visual, audio, olfactory and kinesthetic tools. But olfactory, of course- there is nothing to smell. So we have three options open to us- the visual, audio and tactile methods of learning. Visual method is just actually showing the child what happens rather than telling him; this way a child is able to learn a step-by-step procedure with relative ease. The second is singing out information. I still sing my ABCD’s out. And finally there is the tactile/kinesthetic method,which in my opinion, is the most effective in learning science. It is letting a child play with learning toys and imbibe information. The stress here will be on actually doing something than the end result.
All that being said, the actual effectiveness of these methods lie in the sensitivity of teachers, the open mindedness of the system, the willingness of the child to cope, the support from the child’s parents, the infrastructure of the school and (sadly) in some cases the social-standing of the special child.