We have 47 children currently and the majority of them are struggling with Mathematics and Accounting. With Mathematics, they are struggling at different levels in the different age groups and at different levels the subject. From the lowest, that is Elementary Arithmetic up to Additional Mathematics, they have taken months to master it and have only produced minimum results.
With Accounting, it more or less reflects the same struggle with Mathematics. This is despite the fact that we are sending them to school and have hired private tutors to teach them. As far as we can observe, with our main tutor coordinator, Sharon Foon, said these are possible reasons why this phenomena is happening.
We are going to explore our children’s lives in various areas and levels to address this issue. We shall start from the fundamental basis about learning.
On a fundamental level, each child has intelligence biasness. This theory is supported by Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory and has been proven with the SUMIT (Schools Using Multiple Intelligence Theory) project, which shows significant results of improvement in children who go through an environment that is tailored to each child’s intelligence biasness. In our Homes, our children have often shown more of Linguistic Intelligence, Kinesthetic Intelligence (Body coordination skills e.g. in sports), Musical Intelligence and so on. We do have quite a number of children who possess Mathematical Intelligence but they are in the minority.
Obviously this is not the only fundamental level of learning; we see that it is particularly relevant in our Homes’ context. From there, we are going deeper than our children’s learning biasness.
On a deeper level, our children are from broken homes which are neglected and abused backgrounds. This is where it gets complicated. Allow me to explain why. I am going to put out a proposition whereby a children’s learning and his/her worth are deeply integrated. When a child grows up in an environment where by his/her worth is dwindled to an object of hatred, anger or no value, his /her learning capacity and capability is severely impeded. Firstly, the parents have no interest in teaching their own children. These children are left on their own to figure out many difficult things for a child to learn. Secondly, they will be busy thinking of how to please their parents, avoid being punished or getting their attention rather than focusing on acquiring knowledge. If a child has no interest in a particular subject; a fortiori, and is shameful, how can we expect him/her to be able to cope? They are a few levels to overcome before efficient and fruitful learning can take place.
At their school, we have a few levels to work through as well. The school’s typical pedagogy in Malaysia normally utilizes only two forms of intelligence biasness, that is Linguistic and Mathematical Intelligence. The children who possess a high degree of Mathematical Intelligence will benefit. This is fine. But for the majority, this is another area where they are totally left behind. Mathematics to these individuals will then require a different form of presentation, assorted personalities from teachers and an empowering and encouraging environment in order for them to learn it well. We need to concede that this ideal environment is too far fetched for the government schools to achieve due to a number of constraints. This is a conclusion on one level. Another would be this; we all know that if you are in an environment whereby a pool of resources is freely shared and is available, you would naturally improve wherever the standard is currently at. Imagine, our children who are already left behind in years of learning prior their entry in our Homes are now placed in the last class in school. He/she is in an environment where the students are not interested in learning or incapable to share any knowledge. Let’s assume that our children are placed in a much better class in school; even for our children to be able to open up and ask questions is already a milestone. Remember, they come from a background where they are terribly ashamed and they don’t think they are worthy to be heard or to be helped. On another point, they do not want to risk being ashamed further by asking questions as they may appear to look stupid.
Back in our own Homes, we are not an academic institution. We can only do what we can with such limited resources. The lack of staff has always been our main concern and it’s really hard to find one who is well trained and with a big heart to teach, care and give. Whilst we may have hired private tutors to come and teach the children, it is normally done in groups. That won’t be sufficient and it will take a very long time to see significant results. The truth is this; this problem is a time sensitive one. We cannot predict how long a child will be staying with us. Some will leave earlier, some will leave later. This is because only a few of our children are under court order that their welfare is within our jurisdiction. The others are under their family (member)’s consent. If they want the child back, they only need to sign the Discharge Forms. It would be an irony if, after being in our Home , the child perpetuates the same cycle of event s as his/her parents.
In Shelter Home, giving them the best of their welfare is sine qua non. The best way for our children to cope is to have a one- to- one tutoring. They need the tutor’s full attention and care in order to overcome the many levels of obstacles that are in their way. Be it a professional tutor, who is willing to work for a low fee or an underqualified volunteer who has a huge heart in wanting to help, we are willing to work it out. If it’s a concern to a volunteer that he/she has cost that needs covering (eg, transportation and meals), we can also work that out. If you are unable to help by volunteering, sponsorship is definitely something we need as well. It is our hope that by sending out this message to you, you will seriously consider how you can help us!