There’s a lot of talk about Australian students falling behind academically, that they either don’t understand what’s being taught or they’re just bored and tune out.
At the same time, there are steadily increasing rates of depression and anxiety among students. Doctors are seeing children and young adults with mental health issues or behavioural difficulties that, on further questioning, are associated with undiagnosed learning difficulties.
Our education system is failing our children. Our teachers are under increasing pressure to teach children more information with increasingly limited time in the classroom. There is more paperwork, more testing, resulting in less time to get to know the children.
It is expected our children will start school with an assumed level of knowledge or, at least, ready to learn. Single letter sounds are learnt within the first 10 weeks of kindergarten. Then the curriculum demands that children progress to sight words and reading. But what if your child hasn’t quite grasped the basic concepts? Unfortunately, your child is expected to “keep up”.
As children learn, each new skill is a brick to build a wall of knowledge. But some children don’t get all the bricks. There is no time to slow down. As the wall gets bigger, the holes create instability.
It may surprise you that up to 10 per cent of children in schools are affected by specific learning difficulties in reading, writing or maths. If recognised early, intervention can be provided. But if unrecognised there comes a time when the wall cannot get any taller before it crashes.
This means the private tutoring business is booming: market researcher Global Industry Analysts predicts the global tutoring market will surpass $103 billion by 2018.
These children require explicit, direct and systematic instruction in reading, writing and maths.
If you think your child may have a learning difficulty, seek early intervention. Ask your school if it can provide a tutor or evidence-based program for your child.
If your child is not interested in homework, let them play. Children learn so much through building, creating and exploring.
Focus on your child’s strengths to build their confidence. That confidence will flow through to other areas.
- Dr Annemarie Christie is a practising GP, child health educator and mother of four.