Why is there difference in students’ performances

Why do students fail to achieve desired grades?
TAHIR ALI WEEKEND MAGAZINE (March 27 2010): Why do students fail to achieve desired grades? Why do some students score well while others do not? Why is there difference in students’ performances? Why do some fail while others succeed? Questions such as these arise in minds and experts discuss the causes and forward their suggestions. In terms of their performances, I think, students can be classified into three categories: high achievers, moderate performers and low performers.

The first category comprises highly intelligent students, they just need a little attention and nudge to do wonders. Students in the second category have average abilities, they may excel if properly guided and lag behind if neglected. The third include dull students who can hardly memorise something, they need special attention and special techniques.

All of these kinds have their familiar attributes. For now I would enumerate the common characteristics of the third category. Low performers are distinguished easily from high achievers or moderate performers as they frequently absent from school:

— Arrive late in class but leave early, this is especially true for college and university levels;

— Even if present, they will not be attentive to what is being taught;

— Usually read some novel, digest or newspaper and don’t heed lectures;

— Usually look outside the window or are lost in thoughts;

— Are in a habit of exchanging looks with mates and gesturing for something;

— Talk with desk fellows during lectures, laugh, make a noise;

— Won’t take detailed notes and rather like to be passive listeners and not active participants in the teaching;

— Do not ask questions and also dislike being asked;

— Avoid fulfilling the assigned tasks and always try to avoid checking;

— Either don’t read at all or read wrongly, so they are unable to understand, master, and memorise the text materials;

— Are in the habit of missing exams or papers hoping they would do well next time. But it is again the same story – they put off studying until it is too late. They tend to procrastinate; lack motivation, are lazy, unprepared, undisciplined, have a poor attitude.

— Usually have a low IQ but may also comprise highly intelligent but misguided students;

— Don’t care for their books and notebooks, throw them casually; write untidily; live haphazardly – have nothing in its place and have no place for anything. There are various factors that impact the students’ personalities and pace the quality and quantity of their performances negatively or positively.

The Intelligence Quotient (IQ) of the students, is effected by the factors of heredity and environment, the behaviour and level of guidance offered by their parents and teachers, the poverty and illiteracy or otherwise of their parents, their own health, study/classroom habits, their domestic, social and economic background, environment at school, teacher’s methodology and personality, the language barrier, the workload upon them, and their hobbies.

Some students are dull at some subjects but exceptionally better in others. This variation could be attributed to their inclinations and aptitudes or to their perception about the subject teacher and his teaching methodology. They need to be transferred to their favourite spots.

Some others have a limited span of attention. They can’t concentrate for long. They need to be given focussing exercises. Today, there are more distractions than in the past. These are the enemies of concentration and good future. If television, movies, surfing the net, chatting or partying with friends, video games, or anything else of the sort prevent them from focusing on studies, they should be shunned.

Students who work have little or no time to study and revisit the contents at home. It usually has a negative effect on their achievement level. According to Sayyad, a 7th class student who has now given up studies, his frequent non-attendance due to work weakened him and he had to leave school quickly.

Some students do try their level best to learn but fail because of their inappropriate study-habits. Zahid Ali, a student of class 9, says he read but his weaker IQ made it difficult for him to learn something. Students from broken and un-cohesive families usually score low.

“Two things that have helped Indian, and Pakistani children, in that order, excel in US schools, thus far – cohesive family, where father is the leader, manager, provider, who sets clear, and firm limits, regarding children behaviour, (and a mother who does not sabotage father’s agenda), and there is enormous, encouragement and motivation – at times it appears, that these kids from the sub-continent, have little nuclear battery fitted in them. That is all I learnt in 38 years as an educator in US,” writes Professor Naseem Khan of Johns Hopkins University USA. All these students cannot and must not be shepherded with same methods.

The administration and teaching staff in educational institutions should deal with each category of students the way best suited and beneficial for them. They usually comprise many gifted students in their ranks who can do wonders if their potentials are positively channelized.

Mir Alam Syed, a Mardan based lecturer, urges close teacher-parent-child relationship for this purpose. He says that revision of what has been taught at schools should be ensured at home. He also underlines the need for a competitive environment in classes as well.

Questions and their answers clarify ambiguous points and help understand the themes. Students should be encouraged that when ever they fail to comprehend, they should ask questions in classes or meet their teachers frequently in office hours to seek explanations. This simply doesn’t work if they remain confused but silent for months and visit their teachers to clarify points at the end of the year. Mohammad Yousaf Qindeel, a teacher at a local school asserts that individual attention and a proper mechanism for guidance and counselling of the students is needed in schools.

Youth usually behave in extreme ways. They study hard or hardly study. They work hard for one examination and do well, but then being over confident or careless they shirk work later and do worse. They should believe in work, work and work throughout their life.

According to Hafiz Mohammad Zubair, educationist, most often students engage in “passive study”. Studies have shown, however, that an “active” learning approach results in greater learning. Active learning requires “handling,” shaping or manipulating the information read, ie, reading and outlining, summarising, or answering questions about the text.

Students need to respect their subjects, teachers and class fellows. They should also make use of the library, the reading material there, the computer facilities and the like. They should befriend the brighter students which will benefit them academically. Students desire to be entertained, inspired and educated simultaneously. All teachers, however, are not really good at it. They should not have to be. Students can learn from even the dreariest teachers if they want to.

We all know there are inter-individual and intra-individual differences between students in spheres of physical, mental, emotional, social and educational development. It is for the teachers and psychologists to investigate as to what has caused variation in their attitude and performance and deal with each accordingly.

I think students have a prime role to play in deciding as to what they would and could become and which way they have to go. Their attention and devotion to studies can elevate them to higher positions, make up the deficiencies inflicted by other factors, and open new and improved vistas to them.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2010

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About Tahir Ali Khan
I am an academic, freelance columnist, writer and a social worker.

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