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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Dangerous precedent

This week, one item in the newspaper caught my attention. It was an article about a 17-year-old girl who had failed her exams and needed to do her year over.

First of all I need to explain our school system a bit, because it's probably different from what exists in the USA or the UK. In Belgian school, students do exams at the end of June and they need to get an 'A'. This means they have passed and go to the next year. There is also a 'B' which means you pass, but have to go to another option (for instance, from Latin-Sciences to Industrial Sciences). 'C' means you have failed. This decision is not made by one teacher only, but by the whole group of teachers who teach in the option. They can only fail a student, when a joint decision is made. Just to make sure they have thought about it and discussed all the pro's and contra's. It is not a decision lightly taken.

Now this girl, who pretend to have dyslexia (which can be true) and ADHD (which is doubtful) failed her exams in the 5th grade. Her mother urged her to sue this result - and what has happened? The courts said she was right and now she has to go to the 6th form, even when she is not able to perform and will certainly fail either this year or the next.

Being a teacher myself, I know that most schools will offer assistance and learning aids to pupils who need it. But you can't just concentrate on one student alone, as there are other in your class who also need their lessons and your attention.

A student who is in need of special care should go to a school where such students are individually coached and get better results. However, most parents refuse to do so, and also do nothing to help their child at home. Most of them expect the school to raise their children and give them a proper education.

This decision of the High Court has created a dangerous precedent. Most likely lots of 'C' students will sue, and as a result school will just give A's to everyone, to prevent trouble. Is that OK? I think not.

If you want a good educational system, then parents and students will have to accept they can fail if they don't perform or don't behave. It was so in my days at school and it did nobody harm. And you were certain that, when you got an A, you had deserved it.

What is your opinion?

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