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Effect on Grouping Kids by Ability

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Throughout history, children have been grouped according to their abilities in school. Today, it is continued – children being sorted like parcels into ‘appropriate’ groups. But is it fair?

A commonly discussed controversial topic, emotion and logic often clash here. Logically, children will perform better when pushed and challenged at the right level. If you are good at maths (for example) and the class is too easy, you will never reach your potential. You will also feel overconfident, from being compared to people not as good as you. The same goes in reverse for children who aren’t so talented. Therefore, shouldn’t it make sense to group kids up like this?

Not necessarily – there are a variety of reasons not to. One of which is that people don’t want to be in the ‘bottom set’. There are people who, whether they’re good or not, want to be the best. Children may feel pressured (from parents, teachers, friends, or themselves) to be better, in order to get into the ‘best’ group. Children may feel separated from their friends, or not good enough. The same goes the other way around – kids who are in the top groups may be seen as a show-off or nerd.

The other option is to let the kids decide. Give them the option to choose for themselves whether or not they want to be in the top groups. It would certainly make them happier at the time, but it could inhibit learning of everyone in the class, if there are kids speeding ahead or slowing them down. Perhaps it’s up to the teachers or the parents, but it’s important to remember that everyone’s learning style is different.

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