Dr Richard C. Woolfson
Exam scores are an important indication of your child’s educational progress, even in Primary 1 and 2. These marks tell you, and his teacher, how well he is advancing through the school curriculum. You may be disappointed when he gets 60-plus in tests despite your target of at least 95. Don’t panic, however. There are a number of steps you can take to help improve your eight-year-old’s educational achievements, without stressing him.
Speak to his teacher. Instead of grabbing a few minutes of her time at the end of the school day when she is rushed, make an appointment to see her, so that both of you will have uninterrupted time for your discussion. In preparation for your meeting, write down your concerns and questions. For example, does your son try hard in class? Is he slower than his classmates when learning new concepts? Does he ask for more help than the others? Does the teacher feel he could gain higher marks if only he would apply himself? When you have your chat with this teacher, go through these questions slowly and listen to her answers.
SO THAT’S HIS BEST?
If you and the teacher conclude that your child tries his very best in class, that he achieves to the best of his ability, that he completes all his work diligently, and that his current results are an accurate reflection of the scores the teacher expects him to get, then you’ll be reassured that he’s well-motivated and trying hard. Not every child can gain top marks in every test. Some children do well in primary school and then fade in secondary school; for others, it is the other way round.
Some are low achievers in formal education and yet become very successful in adult life. If either you or the teacher suspect that he may have a learning difficulty (specific or general), ask for specialist advice and support. Whatever his ability, do your best to ensure that your child throws himself into his school life with full enthusiasm and commitment. You could consider some tuition for him after school, but be very careful not to overdo it – he can’t spend every waking minute with his nose in a book. Keep encouraging him and let him know that you’ll continue to be pleased with him as long as he’s happy and motivated in class, and gives full effort.
CAN DO BETTER
However, if you and the teacher conclude that your child isn’t working hard in class, that he doesn’t have a positive attitude to school, and that he could achieve much more educationally if he only gave more effort and commitment, then it’s time for a serious chat with your child. Let him know that you expect him to be more serious about school work, and that you want him to be more attentive and try his best from now on.
Explain that you have arranged to have regular reports from his teacher – not just once a term – about his behaviour and progress in class. Tell him that you will help him in any way you can, and that you know he’ll feel better about himself once he starts to reach his true potential in learning.
In addition, think about his homework schedule. Draw up a timetable for this – one that is clear and realistic, but not overwhelming. For instance, he has to study at home for 20 minutes at least three times a week when he comes back from school. Encourage him to stick to this agreed schedule of home study and supervise him when you can. A positive plan of action like this that combines support, supervision, planned study and regular monitoring is likely to lead to improved tests scores within a few months.