Rabat - Slow learners, or ‘dunces’, are not born; they are made. They may be born with some ‘minor cognitive deficiencies’, but they are not ‘mentally retarded’. Social environments in which these ‘below-normal learners’ grow up will shape their future academic performance.
Rabat – Slow learners, or ‘dunces’, are not born; they are made. They may be born with some ‘minor cognitive deficiencies’, but they are not ‘mentally retarded’. Social environments in which these ‘below-normal learners’ grow up will shape their future academic performance.
Among these environments, schools are the most important. In Morocco, as a case in point, educational institutions unintentionally induce ‘slow learning’. Indeed, classroom practices of most Moroccan teachers, as well as the policies of educational authorities, help but create breeding grounds for slow learners to grow in number, day upon day, year upon year and generation upon generation.
The majority of Moroccan teachers worsen, often unwittingly, the psychological state of ‘slow learning’ of their pupils. The situation is even more acute when students need more than ordinary time to process information. Many students are indeed naturally inclined to grasp new concepts through repetition. Yet, repeating with ‘variation and innovation’ is often not an ‘option’ for most Moroccan teachers. Most Moroccan teachers believe repetition is a waste of time; if and when they repeat for the sake of explanation, teachers are so redundant that repetition becomes a torture for learners.
Mastering English tenses, for instance, requires, on the part of an EFL teacher, continuous reference, be it directly or implicitly, to the endless complexities and subtleties with which English language incorporates the notion of ‘time’. Unfortunately, this is not done inside the bulk of Moroccan EFL classrooms. Ignoring ‘visual activities’, conducting uniform instruction and ‘overlooking’ slow learners are yet another panoply of practices Moroccan teachers indulge in to create more and more ‘below-normal students’. The consequences are huge; over the years, Moroccan classes have become increasingly unmanageable-for the excessive number of the “lagging-behind” students impedes progression towards better academic achievement.
Educational authorities, through anachronistic ‘official instructions’ and policies, tremendously contribute their share to inflate the number of pupils struggling to catch up with a minority of ‘higher-achieving’ peers. The Moroccan Ministry of Education keeps rehashing almost the same curricula and syllabi all across the disciplines since the ‘independence’ almost seven decades ago; a content designed then for an-ever-elusive ‘high- achieving’ students: a pursuit no longer valid nowadays! “Analyze and sketch the curve of the function…”, for instance, is an overly ‘abused’ question the annual standardized Moroccan Baccalaureate Math Exams include since the French colonizers left the country: an aberration educational officials urgently need to resolve. Learners’ needs, expectations and academic competencies are constantly evolving.
Standards and curricula must be readjusted accordingly. Most importantly though, standardized testing should be aligned with the level of the majority of pupils; that is, ‘the army of slow learners’ who make up our schools’ population. The critical ‘balance point’ between, on the one hand, national and international standards, and the level and needs of our future generations, on the other, is yet to be devised within the Moroccan educational system. Ironically, when inspectors report on a class visit, they hardly refer to learning difficulties; all that matters is ‘to bring to an end the syllabus in accordance with the official instructions!’
In sum, classrooms’ inadequate behavior of most Moroccan teachers and obsolete educational policies conspire together to exponentially increase the number of ‘slow learners’ in our kindergartens, middle and high schools and universities. ‘Filling up’ learners’ minds with irrelevant knowledge can lead students to ‘put their heads in the sand’ or even to revolt to hide failure. Jacques Prévert’s “The Dunce” could do nothing but this!
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