One of the first things that upset Riddhi Dugar on getting the progress report card was that her best friend would not be in the same section in the new class as her. A month later, the class III student of Bhavan's Rajaji Vidyashram is happy in the new environment. "I have made new friends. I play with my old friends during break or talk to them on the telephone or meet them at birthday parties," says Riddhi. It is for the second time since she joined the school in L.K.G. that her section was changed.
Whether children hate it or love it, in a good number of schools it is a common practice to shuffle students when they move from one grade to another. The frequency of the shuffling differs among schools. Some schools shuffle a batch of students annually, while others do it when children move from primary to middle school and again in high school.
Schools explain the process of shuffling children from one section to another as a way for them to make new friends, adjust to a new environment and face new challenges in a classroom where children of different learning abilities come together. However, it is challenging for the teachers and for a child who cannot accept the change. Adolescent children react more strongly, especially if separated from their long-time friends. "I have come across students who would get upset and plead that we have broken their friends circle by interchanging sections. In such cases, we counsel them and explain how it would help him or her perform better," says N.K.Padma, teacher, Kendriya Vidyalaya, CLRI. Teachers say shuffling of a batch of students helps in instilling better discipline. "Children who are not motivated or those who hang out as a circle settle with one peer group, therefore it is essential to shuffle," says Ms. Padma. "Change of classroom, seating arrangement and splitting a group creates a healthier environment," she adds.
She says that from classes I to V, shuffling is not required as a teacher needs to know every child. Quite a number of schools do not welcome any academic shuffling, where slow learners or students scoring high marks are put together in one section.
According to Arundathi Swamy, student counsellor, "Shuffling is a good practice and most children take it well. Some are not happy and occasionally there are a few instances where a child cannot adjust. These are signs for the parents and teachers that the child needs extra help."
She says teachers need to be more sensitive and accommodative to the needs of such children who are not able to adjust. "If a child is extremely distressed and does not show signs of mixing in the group, the decision could be reconsidered," she adds.