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Educationists are unanimous of the view that a child’s learning is essentially outside the confines of any formal structure. It is also true that this learning will be largely unordered and unstructured. It might, however, provide the child/learner with the basic know-how of coping with the simple challenges in his/her life.

The maktab, school, classroom or “group” is the laboratory where the learning programme is effectively refined. It is also the considered view of experienced educators, educationists and educationalists that what transpires “inside” this organized structure significantly impacts upon the teaching and learning and vis a vis, the ongoing growth and development of the learner.

Insha Allah, the following summary should give us a broad overview of the different role-players in the dynamic process that unfolds within the precincts of these structured confines.

“The quest for knowledge is obligatory upon every Muslim (male or female).” (Hadith)

1. Perceptions and misconceptions
It needs to be clearly understood that the learner is CENTRAL to the entire process of teaching and learning. He/She is the CONSUMER. When the learner is removed from the teaching-learning scene, there is not even a question of any teaching and/or learning!

Viewed against such a rationale, it becomes imperative for the Muallim/ah to get to know his/her learner as fully and completely as possible. Serious misconceptions on the part of the Muallim/ahs [educators] have created major distortions in the beauty, wholesomeness and uniqueness of the “WHOLENESS” [THE GESTALT] of the educational process. Some of the erroneous mindset of those entrusted with the education of learners are:
• if he/she wants to learn, then he/she needs to have the motivation and drive;
• he/she needs to show some interest in the maktab programme;
• why should I “break my head” … he/she is simply not bothered;
• why should I chase after him/her?
• if he/she comes to madrasah [the maktab], we’ll teach him/her … or else … he/she can suite himself/herself;
• he/she is a “useless” … comes from “such and such a background” … how can he/she ever learn?;
• He/she is a retarded learner! It’s impossible for him/her to learn!

2. The need to know your learner
Any successful Muallim/ah firstly gets to KNOW his/her learner properly. He/she makes planned visits to the learners’ home and regularly interacts with them on an individual basis in order to acquaint himself/herself with the “other side” of the “consumer”. However, becoming familiar with the learners’ chronological development … physical or motor … is only the beginning. More importantly, an enterprising Muallim/ah makes every effort to obtain more information about the learners’:

• Home background;
• Economic situation;
• Social circle… his/her friends;
• Personal likes and dislikes;
• field/s of interest;
• Level of real and vicarious experiences [vicarious = imagined experience… i.e. …after being shown, or reading of, or being told of some incident or experience];
• Level of intellectual development;
• Level of cognitive development;
• Level of neuro-muscular development;
• Level of listening comprehension;
• Level of comprehension of read material;
• Ability to speak about the “read”, “heard” or “seen” material; and
• Ability to retain, re-call and apply [transfer] simple information.

It is only on the basis of such information about the learners, which Muallim/ahs can really relate [“tailor-make”] their teaching to suit the different levels of development of their learners. The subject matter to be taught and the methodology to be employed needs to be congruent with the WHOLE DEVELOPMENT [GESTALT] of the learners.

That there is a gradual but sequential development in the growth of each individual is an undisputed fact.

For example: There are also such distinct phases of development and growth even in the life of our infants. As a case in point, the development of communicative skills in the new-born is an excellent example. Under normal circumstances, the new-born.

first yells, then cries, prattles, baby-talks, strings loose words together, incoherently, strings loose words together, somewhat coherently, forms short sentences, [until it is able to] put some sentences together in order to give expression to its needs, likes and dislikes and thoughts, Develops further with time.

However, do note:
• The above is a normal progression of development; but
• In reality, the communicative skills of different children, develop at different rates.

The FULL [WHOLE] development of learners described above, which a Muallim/ah needs to know for successful and meaningful teaching and learning, also develops at different rates.

Insha Allah, when Muallim/ahs begin to tailor-make their lessons to suite the learners’ level of development, there is a good chance of them achieving the goals and objectives that have been formulated for the different subjects and lessons.

3. The complex nature of the learner
As the CENTRAL focus of the teaching-learning process, the learner is really quite a complex mix. The emotional, intellectual and physical chemicals are perpetually at play within him/her. Further exacerbating the complexity is the fact that many external issues impact upon him/her at different times, in different ways and in different intensities … placing him/her under tremendous pressure.

Praise, reward and motivation, rather than reprimand, blame and discouragement are thus key ingredients in understanding a learner in the process of trying to educate him/her.

Graphically, this complexity could be illustrated as follows: