Sunday, February 22, 2009

Immigrant Teens Struggle With Formal Schooling

About a month ago, I read a very interesting article about how immigrant teens were struggling with formal schooling in the schools of New York. To some people, this may look like an alien topic but I would first like to discuss the article and then speak about its various ramifications.

This article spoke about how many young people fled persecution in their countries, reached United States and got enrolled into schools. So, there was this girl, who was 18 years old and her name was Fanta Konneh. She grew up in Guinea after her family had fled from Liberia and she had never walked into any classroom all her life.The problem here is that we have very diverse set of students in a school, where some are from privileged settings, while the others are natives with lesser privileged homes, and while some others like Fanta Konneh have never known any formal schooling in their lives.

It would be a great challenge for the schools to impart any kind of education to the lesser privileged or the under privileged students because of the great diversity that existed among the students. Many students don't even understand the notion of being a student. The article states that New York is the only state that identifies them as Students with Interrupted Formal Education but it does not give them a special curriculum, nor does it provide additional financing or track their progress. So, in effect, it makes a mockery of the system.

Now, in India, we do not have such students who are immigrant teens. However, we do have students who enter college from such school settings from many rural settings where formal schooling is pathetic. I have taught students from diverse places in India such as Mizoram, Nagaland in the North East to Kashmir and Ladakh in the upper North. I do notice similar problems there. It becomes very difficult at the college level to help these students improve. There should be special provisions to identify exceptionally weak kids so that they could be given remedial classes.