Mixed-ability classes allow pupils to help one another

Ai Tong School is among those that have grouped pupils of uneven academic abilities in classes where they take most of their subjects together.
Ai Tong School is among those that have grouped pupils of uneven academic abilities in classes where they take most of their subjects together.PHOTO: ST FILE

As a teacher who taught mixed-ability classes for 15 years, I read the article on such classes with interest (Several primary schools switch to mixed-ability classes, June 6).

Being in a mixed-ability class gives pupils more opportunities to mix with one another, through strong encouragement from the teacher.

The teacher plays an important role in ensuring that pupils of different abilities interact with and help one another.

This can be done through group work during a normal lesson.

The pupils who need help may receive guidance from their peers, who play the role of "little teachers" when the teacher is engaged with another group of pupils during the same lesson.

These "little teachers", on the other hand, take the opportunity to test themselves on what they have learnt from their teacher before they transfer the knowledge to their peers who need help.

When the school at which I taught decided to band the pupils according to their results one year, it caused much distress among both the teachers and the pupils.

Teaching the pupils was a challenge, as I had to keep up with the syllabus and teach basic concepts again. Exam results that year were dismal.

When the school decided to switch back to mixed-ability classes, the pupils gained confidence and challenged themselves to work towards goals that were set with them based on their abilities.

I truly support mixed-ability classes in our classrooms.

While the achievements may not be what both sides expect, getting different groups of pupils working together supersedes everything else.

Colin Ting Fook Mun

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 10, 2019, with the headline 'Mixed-ability classes allow pupils to help one another'. Print Edition | Subscribe