Lessons from Ishaan’s struggle


Taare Zameen Par is a heart-rending story of slow-learner Ishaan, and a heartening story for parents and teachers who deal with such slow learners.

Ishaan is a boy with a fertile imagination. He sees fish flying, but cannot distinguish between the alphabets ‘b’ and ‘d’. His parents do not understand his problem. They expect him to excel like his brother Rohan. His teachers think he is indisciplined and stubborn. His friends call him duffer. This leads him to hate school. Then Nikum sir comes into his life. He diagnoses Ishaan’s learning problem as dyslexia and helps him overcome it and also helps him excel in his inborn talent.

Dyslexia is a learning disability which manifests primarily as difficulty with the written language, particularly with reading and spelling. It is separate and distinct from reading difficulties resulting from other causes such as a non-neurological deficiency with vision or hearing from poor or inadequate reading instruction. Although dyslexia is the result of a neurological difference, it is not an intellectual disability. Dyslexia occurs at all levels of intelligence.

Dyslexia is most commonly characterised by difficulties with learning how to decode words, to spell and to read accurately and fluently. Dyslexia also makes mathematics more difficult as people with dyslexia might mix numbers up. Dyslexic individuals often reverse or transpose when writing or confuse letters such as b,d, p, q, especially in childhood. However, dyslexia is not a visual problem. Dyslexia’s main manifestation is a difficulty in developing word-level reading skills in elementary school children.

Many individuals with dyslexic symptoms involving reading, writing and spelling also exhibit symptoms in other domains such as poor short-term memory skills, poor personal organisational skills and problems processing spoken language. Dyslexia is a lifelong condition that cannot be reversed, but appropriate remedial instruction and compensatory strategies can help dyslexics mitigate or overcome their difficulties with written language.

A large body of evidence show which types of instructions dyslexic need in order to be successful.

Many dyslexics overcome early problems with literacy and go on to pursue successful careers. A high level of motivation coupled with strong encouragement and mentorship has been identified as factors leading to their success.

Taare... highlights that no two persons are same. Likewise no two persons have the same intelligence. In our context, parents without knowing the intelligence of their

children compare their performance with that of other children. Academic or scholastic excellence is neither the only nor the best indication of high intelligence; it is one of the

indicators. Each child is differently intelligent.

Taare... challenges parents to recognise and appreciate their children’s inborn intelligence and guide them accordingly.

One of the characteristics of classroom is individual differences. No two students are similar. Each student has learning needs, learning difficulty and learning style. It is a challenge for a teacher to recognise the individual differences and plan lessons to meet the needs of each learner. Each student possesses an indomitable spirit and its recognition, appreciation and proper guidance could ignite it and set the world on fire. Compassionate handling can form a child, while condemning can deform the child.

The term learning disability (LD) refers to a group of disorders that affect a broad range of academic and functional skills including the ability to speak, listen, read, write, spell, reason and organise information. A learning disability is not indicative of low intelligence. Causes of learning disabilities include a deficit in the brain that affects the processing of information. In simple words learning styles are the different approaches or ways of learning.

Taare... awakens us to the current crisis in our education system. It forces us to look at the multiple intelligences. The Multiple Intelligence Theory was developed in 1983 by Dr Howard Gardner, professor of education at Harvard University. Dr Gardner indicates that by introducing a broader range of learning methods (known as the intelligences) educators and parents, can home in on an individual’s strengths and weaknesses by determining their preferred learning style. This would consequently give them the opportunity to learn in ways more productively to their unique minds.

Dr Gardner originally identified seven core intelligences — linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal and intrapersonal. In 1999 he added an eighth, the naturalistic intelligence. Recently Gardner has posited the existence of a ninth intelligence — he calls it existential intelligence.

The theory was proposed in the context of debates about the concept of intelligence, and whether methods which claim to measure intelligence are truly scientific. Gardner’s theory argues that intelligence, as it is traditionally defined, does not adequately encompass the wide variety of abilities humans display. In his conception, a

child who masters the multiplication table easily is not necessarily more intelligent overall than a child who struggles to do so. The second child may be stronger in another kind of intelligence, and therefore may best learn the given material through a different approach, may excel in a field outside of mathematics.

The theory suggests that, rather than relying on a uniform curriculum, schools should offer individual-centered education, with curriculum tailored to the needs of each child. Teaching should make the students think out of the box and define their own goals instead of filling their ideas with the existing one. Curricula and assessment should not suffocate the creativity of students.

(Fr Amrit Rai, SJ, teaches at St Xavier’s, Godavari)