Face Off: Should students who are under-achieving repeat the year?

Face Off: Should students who are under-achieving repeat the year?

Each week, our two teenagers will debate a hot topic. This week ...
Vanessa Cheung, 16, St Paul's Secondary School (Affirmative)

Some people say under-achieving students should not repeat the year as it will just be a waste of time for the school and teachers. However, I believe all children have the potential to gain better academic results. It is just a matter of time until their potential develops. So I agree with the Confucian teaching "Leave No Child Behind". Schools and teachers should offer students the opportunity to repeat the year, let them reflect and turn over a new leaf. After that, the school can continue to cultivate their talents.

Also, some students with good academic results may become nervous about public examinations, and score lower marks than expected. They should be given the chance to repeat the year to take more mock exams and learn to adapt to the environment. Besides, there are also candidates who cannot meet the minimum local university entrance requirements. They may not be able to afford to study overseas or may find their diplomas and associate degrees are not recognised. They should be given the chance to repeat and retake public exams so they can get a place at university.

And what happens if the students who underperform are not allowed to repeat the year in school? What will they do? With their poor qualifications, they will probably be unemployed or be exploited by mean employers. The number of low-skilled, low-qualified unemployed people might climb and they will eventually become a burden on society. Therefore, I think we should let students repeat a year for their sake and for the sake of us all.

Charmain Li, 18, Imperial College London (Negative)

Psychologists and educators agree that simply requiring all students deemed as "under-achievers" to repeat the year could cause negative psychological and social effects later in life.

Not only would it separate students - at a very unstable stage in their life - from their friends, it will also probably do very little to improve their academic performance.

Retained students would be older and more mature than their peers, and repeating a lot of what they've already learned the previous year would bore them. It would also discourage them from doing their best if they believe they will fail nonetheless.

Let's reconsider the situation from the viewpoint of a struggling student. After all, no one ever wants to fail.

These students are most likely already trying their best, but may never reach the education bureau's pre-set targets for passing. Making students repeat a year effectively marks them out as "under-achievers" when they are very young. This could make them feel inadequate and they could become the target of bullying - things that could have long-lasting consequences and even destroy their self-esteem. Some students might be pushed to drop out of school altogether.

I believe children should only be held back a year as a very last resort, when it might be the best thing that would help them.

Education shouldn't be all about meeting government targets; it should be about the individual because not everyone thrives in an academic environment.

There may be many reasons why a student does not do well in their studies. Teachers and parents alike should take a good look at the root of the problem rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach to hold back everyone who fails to live up to a certain standard.


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