As I had mentioned earlier John had to repeat primary one in a private school as he could hardly read a sentence after one year in a public school. With intervention and being taught in an appropriate manner he began to improve his reading in English and with that his grades in class began to improve.
Every day except on Sunday we just read story books for one hour. I would read then John would read. After a few months I changed it to John read and then I read. In less than a year John was beginning to read above grade level. We started doing comprehension exercises only in the second year.
When he was in primary 4 he was promoted to primary 5 half way through primary 4. It was at this time that I started to teach him Mathematics, Bahasa Malaysia (our National language) and science.
We had to really do a lot of work to catch up with the one year of studies that he had missed because of his double promotion– the latter half of primary 4 and the first half of primary 5. His English was now way above grade level but he was behind in Mathematics and Science and Bahasa Malaysia. I asked his father to send him for an extra hour three times a week and we spent most of the time studying all the three subjects.
At the end of the year in 2009 John obtained 3A’s, one B and one C in his UPSR
(Primary 6 Government examination.) This was a fantastic achievement considering that he had to catch up on one year’s studies while learning the 2nd half of primary 5 and his primary 6 school work.
This brings us to the question of whether a student should be retained (held back) in primary one in school if his reading is below grade level. From this example I would say that it is best to retain and give the student one on one tuition preferably by the parents. Remember Einstein and Edison. Both of them were tutored by their mother.
For the self esteem of the student, it would be a good idea to transfer him to another school like John was. This way he will soon forget that he is a grade lower than those in his age group. He won’t be bullied by his previous classmates who would now be a grade higher. He will now be in a new environment and can start afresh.
Assuming he is not retained (held back) he will find it difficult to understand anything in class and will slowly go into a shell and begin to believe his is stupid as he cannot read like his classmates. By not being retained he will have to read at grade two level without having read anything at the grade one level. He may not even know his alphabets. This will be like doing trigonometry without knowing your numbers.
By giving him one on one tuition the tutor will soon discover his weaknesses and his strengths. The tutor will then be able to concentrate on his weaknesses and quickly bring him to a higher grade level and try to go for a promotion to be back where he should be. This will increase his self esteem and his self confidence and propel him even higher.
Digressing a little, every school in this country (except perhaps MRSM where the best students of all the schools are sent)probably has a few students in every class from primary one to form 5 who can hardly read. These students are placed in ‘D’ or ‘E’ class and treated as either stupid or lazy. Once the student is branded this way he goes up to form 5 with hardly any progress. Had there been early intervention where a one on one tuition is given for about a year some of these children who can hardly read, even after form 5, could have turned out to be geniuses.
It would be an interesting research work to find out how many of these students in form one to form five who fail in English fare in Bahasa Malaysia. Hope our local university UMS can take up this research work.