Why Australian Students May Be Falling Behind, and Private Tutoring is Booming

According to a recent article in The Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian education is failing our kids.

While the school curriculum is becoming increasingly academically rigorous, more and more students are falling behind…

And the result is an increase in private tutoring for students around the country.

Health educator and GP Dr Annemarie Christie attributes these findings to a number of factors.

She says that more and more students don’t understand the materials that are being taught, or are bored by them and become disengaged.

Simultaneously, an increasing number of students are suffering from mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression, many of which are actually the result of misdiagnosed learning difficulties.

And finally, the teachers are struggling to keep up with the heightening demands of their job…

‘Our teachers are under increasing pressure to teach children more information with increasingly limited time in the classroom,’ says Dr Christie. ‘There is more paperwork, more testing, resulting in less time to get to know the children.’ 

In one of our recent blog posts we addressed our children’s Educational Needs.

And one of these needs was a good relationship with their teacher — one that supports their emotional, personal and educational goals. 

But with up to 25 children per class, this can be a very challenging task for a teacher.

Although they can and will form relationships with all their students, identifying some types of gaps in learning or ability of individuals can be extremely difficult.

Our staff psychologists insist that while many learning disorders or challenges will be identified in the classroom, parents can’t rely on it. 

‘People are really good at compensating for their difficulties’, says Christina.

And while many students will appear capable and confident in their tasks set by the teacher, the areas where they are struggling to keep up in may be more evident outside of the school setting.

Dani and Christina have witnessed these kinds of gaps themselves, while working both as tutors and as psychologists.

‘I find in primary school, there is a trend — especially with Maths — to use computer technology as opposed to pen and paper. This is positive because it’s more engaging, but it can leave some gaps’, says Dani. ‘For example, some kids then can’t do certain things like two-step equations, but they’re not being flagged at school because on the computer programs they’re fine.’ 

Christina has witnessed similar challenges.

‘Sometimes kids get freaked out because they’ve seen an addition sum but it’s formatted differently than they’re used to. These problems aren’t being identified at school [because it’s not how they learn in school], but it’s not because the teachers can’t keep up.’ 

‘Things can get overlooked in the classroom because of the nature of it… It may seem like a child knows how to read, because they’re always reading books, but then it may be the case that they are just memorising text and taking other cues.’ 

Many schools are trying to reduce class sizes to combat these problems, so that each student can receive more one-on-one attention, and these kind of signs can be identified more readily.

But until systemic changes are made in schools to counteract these problems, how can we make sure our kids will keep up and get the most out of their schooling? 

Talk to your children about their days and what they learnt, listen out for any hints of upset or anxiety around school, and observe their attitudes towards homework in particular.

‘Always go with your gut’, says Christina. ‘If you can see that your child is struggling and there’s a lot of avoidance around school tasks… there may be some gaps that need to be filled’.

Private tutoring is an exceptional way to identify these gaps, help find the best way to resolve them, and give your child the personalised attention they need to perform their best at school.

‘A tutor will be able to pick up on gaps because it’s a one-on-one interaction — you can’t hide when it’s one-on-one’, says Christina. ‘It’s the little things you can observe when you’re focussing on one person, like the fact that a child is saying “oh I can’t remember that word” versus sounding it out. That’s something that might be missed in the classroom.’

A tutor will also be able to identify problems that may be a symptom of a specific learning difficulty in reading, writing or maths, which affect up to ten per cent of students.

And once again, early intervention is key

Dr Christie analogises the potential harm that an undiagnosed learning disability can have on a student’s performance…

‘As children learn, each new skill is a brick. The bricks are placed from the ground up to form a wall of knowledge. But some children don’t get all the bricks. There is no time to slow down. As they build the wall, there are holes instead of bricks, [and eventually] the holes create instability until the wall collapses. Children can continue to learn to a point, but then it all comes crashing down.’

‘If recognised early, intervention can be provided so that they can continue to learn. But if unrecognised… there comes a time when the wall cannot get any taller before it crashes.’ 

Melbourne Child Psychology and School Services conduct Learning Difficulty Assessments to help you and your child discover what their learning potential is, where their strengths and weaknesses lie, if they are experiencing specific learning difficulties or disorders, and what the best strategies are to help them perform at their best. 

While early intervention is extremely important in identifying specific learning problems, it is also possible that your child is disengaged with their studies for other reasons.

Dr Christie suggests taking learning outside of the classroom to help them find the value in learning, particularly for young children.

‘If your child is not interested in doing their homework, let them play. Children learn so much through building, creating and exploring. They can learn maths while shopping, reading through street signs and science through playing with a bucket of water.’ 

This extracurricular learning may help to resolve the problems they’re having at school.

‘Play board games together. Family time is extra fun and reinforces your child’s self-esteem. Focus on your child’s strengths to build their confidence… [it] will flow through to other areas. If they know their strengths, they will be less inclined to worry about their weaknesses.’ 

Whatever the cause, symptoms or identification of your child’s challenges with their schooling, it’s important to know that there are many options for addressing them…

And just because they are finding school difficult now, it doesn’t mean they won’t improve and flourish academically in the future.

So talk to your child’s teachers about your concerns.

Seek private tutoring if you are able to and your child wants some extra support (even if the school doesn’t recommend it).

And if you are in Melbourne and would like some expert help or specific advice for your child?

Click the button below to book your initial parent consultation and get the right advice for your child’s needs.

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