The predetermined goal of any system imparting education is to provide quality education for all student learners so that they can further realise their full potential and contribute to society in a meaningful way. Unfortunately, that is not the case for 1%-19% of school-going children in India, suffering from learning disabilities. Even though the Indian Education Commission (Kothari Commission) way back in 1966 first highlighted the issue and emphasized that education of children with disabilities should be “an inseparable part of the general education system”, the situation in Indian public schools today is still very bleak. With current education systems streamlined towards preparing young learners for academic achievement, students who can’t keep up are given labels that demotivate such as slow-learners, stupid, dumb etc., gradually are given less attention and are eventually left behind.
Understanding Learning Disabilities
While student learners attempt to master the skills of basic literacy and numeracy, which are considered to be the basic foundations of learning, it is also normal to make errors and struggle a little when attempting to learn new things. As children have different paces of learning, learning disabilities can go unnoticed and undetected for long periods of time by both parents and educators. A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities caused by differences in the brain, that are present from birth, or shortly after which affects them their whole life. Student learners suffering from a learning disability tend to take longer to gain basic literacy and numeracy skills and may need support to develop new skills, understand complicated information and interact with other people. What might get misunderstood as a mere learning issue which doesn’t improve with multiple corrective measures and opportunities, as the learners otherwise have the normal intellectual capacity and normal abilities, could actually be a learner’s disability.
Learning Disabilities in Indian Public Schools
In Indian classrooms, the ratio between the number of children assigned to a teacher is fairly high, which makes it almost impossible for each student to be given individual attention. This, when coupled with pressures of finishing the curriculum, planning for classes, preparing students for exams, corrections etc. leave very little time for educators to focus on students that are struggling. Research studies show that regular teachers in India are not prepared to deal with the unique needs of students with disabilities and those with special needs. Nonetheless, they are still expected to meet these demands while being overcrowded, under-resourced and overworked. More often than not, these students with any sort of learning deficit slip through the cracks.
Role of Trained Special Educators
The presence of a special educator who is trained in identifying students who are suffering from disabilities such as dyslexia, ADHD, poor emotional well-being can ease the learner’s minds and most importantly normalise what they’re suffering from, with planned solutions. Children with learning disabilities may also be suffering from low confidence, self-esteem and find themselves feeling helpless and frustrated. What parents and normal educators see as learners merely finding it difficult to read and write, struggling with math skills and memory, trouble with following instructions and directions, a trained special educator will be able to easily identify as a learning disability with actionable steps to help the learners cope with this situation. US research studies indicate that trained special educators or parents even can help these children learn skills that build on their strengths to counterbalance their weaknesses. Special methods can be applied, changes made to classrooms or technology utilised that can assist that child’s learning needs.
Digital Psychological Assessments
For better accuracy and efficiency in identifying students suffering from a range of learning disabilities, Pearson Academy India has designed psychological assessments which help students overcome cognitive, emotional and behavioural disabilities, which act as barriers to their learning. These disabilities when detected at an early stage can help young learners work with special educators and achieve the same success as their peers. These assessments help bridge the gap caused by learning disabilities between ability and academic achievement, which can also coexist with emotional and behavioural issues. Moreover, all of these assessments can be used to screen all the students in a school for learning disabilities like Dyslexia in a single day, by using Q-globalTM a digital platform for test Administration, Scoring and Reporting.
Dyslexia is the most common learning disability where learners find it difficult to accurately or fluently recognize words and find it difficult to spell and decode words. It can go undetected in the early years of schooling which can make these learners become frustrated by their difficulty in learning to read, unmotivated with a dislike for school. Their success may be jeopardized if the problem remains undetected and untreated. For more information on this particular learning disability, you can visit https://pearsonclinical.in/dyslexia/ to understand what to look out for as parents and educators.
Emotional difficulties which manifest themselves into mental health illnesses like depression and anxiety in children can often go undetected, in both environments of school and home. The importance of using efficient and robust assessments to identify these issues is more pertinent because they may also coexist with learning disabilities or attention deficits. What an educator might report back to the parent could be that the child is not able to focus and needs to learn some discipline while working, whereas the problem could be much deeper and more serious. Attention is a prerequisite for classroom behaviour related to listening and understanding instructions, completing assignments and taking exams. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common disability amongst children which involves inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity in children, which may lead to disruptive behaviour in the classroom.
Even though there are no cures to these learning disabilities, early detection by special educators using digital psychological assessments and interventions which provide essential learning techniques and strategies can help students cope better with their learning disabilities. The sooner a learning disability is detected and addressed, the better the chances are for students to succeed at school and contribute to society in the best way they can.