Miss7Mama: “Delaying enrollment in school has less impact on a child than repeating first grade”

On the release of information that last year, the first grade did not complete 125 students, Miss7Mama journalist Tajana Tretnjak spoke with pedagogue Gabrijela Kaludjer and psychologist of the Zagreb Child and Yout Protection Center, Mia Roje Đapić on how it is possible to come up with a decision to repeat the grade according to the Law on Education, and how to help to the child:

“Shortly before of the International Education Day, and in the school year in which the long-announced and anticipated reform began, and in which the longest strike of school employees in the history of independent Croatia took place, the public was shocked by the information provided by HRT that last year the first grade of primary school did not finish 125 students. Most repeat first graders in Virovitica-Podravina and Međimurje County. Six years ago, 136 first graders did not pass the first grade, but a record school year was 2015/16, when the number of small repeaters was 154. As far as the county is concerned, according to the Ministry of Education, it has been the highest number of repeaters in Virovitica-Podravina and Međimurje for years. Otherwise, students usually repeat the seventh grade, then the fifth, and the first, HRT writes.

We called several classroom teachers and principals from several elementary schools and almost all of us were told that in the last 20 or 30 years they had never heard that a student repeating the first grade of primary school or even any grade as younger elementary students. According to the Law on Education in Primary and Secondary Schools effective from January 1, 2020, Article 75 “for a student who at the end of the academic year has a grade of underperformance (1) from a maximum of two teaching subjects, the school is obliged to organize assistance with learning and the acquisition of knowledge through supplementary teaching that the student is required to attend. ”

The Teachers’ Council makes the decision for the younger elementary students

Master of Pedagogy Gabrijela Kaludjer explained to us how were decide and who decides that the student should repeat the class and what the role of the pedagogue is.

“If we are talking about a student of the subject in question, the general success at the proposal of the class teacher is determined by the Class Council. If the Class Council finds that the overall achievement is negative, then the student repeats the class. Insufficient success may be the case when a student has negative grades in three subjects. If the number of negative grades is lower, then the school is obliged to provide the so-called supplementary teaching. After some hours of additional work, the exam is taken in front of the Committee organised by the Teachers’ Council. If a student during a supplementary operation fails to correct the negative assessment, his/her overall success is still insufficient and repeat a year” says a pedagogue, and points out that at primary school students situation is slightly different: “The students from first to third grade do not necessarily have to repeat the grade if they continue to have a negative grade in one subject after additional teaching. Then the decision to repeat or not repeat the class is made by the Teachers’ Council. All of the above are determinants of the Law on Education” she says, explaining that the pedagogue is certainly present at the teacher and class council and, based on their work with the student and observation, can propose further measures just like any member of the school’s professional team.

“The work of a professional team within a school depends primarily on the distribution within each individual school and on the members of the professional team, whether the school has a full professional team or not. The role of pedagogue is to provide professional assistance to teachers and to work with students and parents who require it. If all the necessary measures are taken to ensure that the student has sufficient incentive work for his / her development and advancement, and if this progress is not noticed after a long time, then different upbringing and educational measures are needed in order to determine the appropriate form of education” explains our interlocutor Gabrijela Kaludjer, who in her practice had an example when the Teachers’ Council, with the consent of the parents, ordered the repetition of the first grade because it was a student who had indeterminate developmental difficulties accompanied by a complicated family situation.

“Cases of repeating the first grade are probably from the need to enable pupils to acquire basic skills that develop in the first grade, and these are primarily skills reading and writing. Our education system is such that if you fail to adopt something in the period when it is prescribed, any further progress will be somewhat difficult. In the case that in the first grade the student has not acquired the basic skills of reading and writing, or even recognizing letters, it will be very difficult to master the material from any subject during the second grade. This is one of the examples when it is justified to make a decision to repeat a class due to the further progress of the students with the necessary professional help and consent of the parents” she explained, noting that any case is not simple, but most often it is about the various factors that led to such a decision.

Already when assessing school readiness, many parents do not want to hear that the child is not ready

We asked psychologist Mia Roje Djapic from the Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center how the child is affected by the repetition of classes at the beginning of school, which stressed to us at the outset that, as in every area of ​​child care and upbringing, cooperation between different sectors is important.

When evaluating a child’s readiness for school, many parents want to hear that their child is ready, they want to send their child to school at the age of six, so if there is insufficient communication between all professionals who work with the child, it may be possible to enroll the child in first grade who is not at all or partially ready for school” says the psychologist, explaining that if there is any dilemma, her opinion is that it is better for the child to stay a year longer in kindergarten than to undergo a painful start to education (differences in maturity of this type are usually compounded in a few years), meant that the first grade falls or pass with great difficulty.

The psychologist points out that a child may be above-average intelligent, for example, in a spacial factor, but at the same time be below-average verbal factor development or not sufficiently socio-emotionally mature for all the challenges of going to school: it is important to communicate with parents and make a decision in the cooperation of all sectors of the system” she says.

Master of Pedagogy, Gabrijela Kaludjer, agrees with her: “It is not so rare that students enroll in first grade before being psychophysically ready. Partly because of the parents’ disagreement with the proposed delay by a professional committee to allow an extra year for the child to prepare for school. Delaying the enrollment of a child in first grade certainly has the least socio-emotional consequences for the child from repeating first, fifth or seventh grade. Therefore, if there are any factors that indicate a lack of readiness for school, it is a good idea to provide that additional period of preparation and maturation as well.”

Individualization is achieved by monitoring students by teachers and professional assistants, after which the School Committee proposes to change the form of schooling. However, if it happens that a child is enrolled in school without succeeding in tasks as expected, it is important to see in due course can be helped. “There are great examples of individualization, which is not the same as a customized program, but of matching the teaching and testing of peer-reviewed peer material with the specific strengths and difficulties of each child,” says psychologist Mia Roje Djapic, explaining that the proposal of individualization is usually made on a multidisciplinary basis processing and does not restrict the child in further education, choice of profession and the like.

We asked the pedagogue Gabrijela Kaludjer how to decide on an individualized program for students of the classroom. “The unwritten rule is that students are enrolled in first grade on a regular basis until potential difficulties are identified. Sometimes we cannot be sure whether it is just the educational neglect of the child or the presence of certain difficulties. It is for this reason that the first grade is a kind of observation time, especially in cases where there is no previous documentation of the child itself. However, more common are cases where the child needs a particular form of schooling” she says, explaining that individualization occurs through regular monitoring of students by teachers and professional associates, after which the School Commission proposes to change the form of schooling. The decision on the appropriate form of education is made by the Office of the City / State Administration with the consent of the parents.

Psychologist Mia Roje Djapic gave us an example from her practice:

I will give an example of one of our children from the Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center, who in the fourth grade was not able to complete maths at the test or at the oral exam and had F despite hard work. Before that, math did very well, which was very important to him considering that he had problems with most other subjects, especially languages. The child began to avoid going to school, his stomach ached for no organically determined reason. The child was shown to have serious difficulties with verbal comprehension and reading, which were not recognized earlier because the child successfully compensated for its overall above-average capacity and effort.

However, as tests in maths in four grade came with longer word tasks, they were no longer able to solve them. After two Fs from the test, the child became so anxious when answering verbally in front of the whole class that he could not even show what he knew. The vicious circle closed and, as much as it taught, the child received F from mathematics, which significantly distorted his self-image and caused additional anxiety. And learning became harder. By developing an individualization plan and treating (speech-psychological), the child now has exceptional mathematics results in the fifth grade, and has improved in other subjects. Most importantly, the child is good psychologically, and the parents are exhilarated. ”

It is important from the beginning to ensure that the child in the school system feels worthy enough, accepted and safe

Also, the psychologist points out that numerical grades for young children are too great a challenge.

“Whatever you convey to a seven-year-old child that they are not successful enough to continue their education with their class, they may experience that they are not well enough, and there is a danger of labeling that child as less able or even” bad “by the system”, she says, explains that research and practice have systematically shown that commitment to school is an important predictor of the mental health and success of children and young people, and it is important from the outset to ensure that the child feels valued, accepted and safe enough in the school system.

“I would rather introduce descriptive grades that, as far as I’m aware and used at the beginning of first grade, can be described as a whole – what’s good, what needs help, what help, and what doesn’t just apply success in assignments, for example, s/he can write that s/he is a good friend, that s/he strives to help others, that s/he shows empathy, that s/he is a team player, of expressed creativity and the like. Every child has some of these strengths, and it seems that we, as a society, are focused only on success, on solving problems and problems, which can be valued by a plus, a minus, a smile, or ultimately a grade. In this way, we can create falsely confident children, prone to perfectionism, children who value themselves by the number of fives, medals and the like, and, on the other hand, children who have been implanted with a sense of inadequacy and failure from an early age” concludes the psychologist.

Read more at (on Croatian language): https://miss7mama.24sata.hr/skolarci/skola/odgoda-upisa-u-skolu-ima-manje-posljedica-na-dijete-nego-ponavljanje-prvog-razreda-12258 –


Disclaimer: This is unofficial translation provided for information purposes. Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center can not be held legally responsible for any  translation inaccuracy.   

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