The status of students with a learning disability in Vietnamese primary schools

Abstract. Although the issues of Learning Disabilities (LD) and students with LD have been studied extensively outside of Vietnam, this is a new concept in Vietnam. In order to learn something about students with LD who are current enrolled in primary schools, the academic skills of 2893 students who are from grade 1 to 5 were investigated and the data were statistically analysed. The results showed that 3.84% of primary school students have LD, male students with LD (5.35%) being more than female (2.17%). Most of these children had difficulties doing calculations and reasoning, with their specific learning difficulties more obvious after grade 3. Students with LD tended to have a number of specific difficulties which were in more than one area of scholastic attainment. These results imply that more attention should be given to students with LD primary schools in Vietnam.

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JOURNAL OF SCIENCE OF HNUE Interdisciplinary Science, 2013, Vol. 58, No. 5, pp. 128-135 This paper is available online at THE STATUS OF STUDENTS WITH A LEARNING DISABILITY IN VIETNAMESE PRIMARY SCHOOLS Nguyen Thi Cam Huong, Phan Thi Huong Johannes Paetzold, Hoang Thi Le Quyen and Dinh Nguyen Trang Thu Faculty of Psychology and Education, Hanoi National University of Education Abstract. Although the issues of Learning Disabilities (LD) and students with LD have been studied extensively outside of Vietnam, this is a new concept in Vietnam. In order to learn something about students with LD who are current enrolled in primary schools, the academic skills of 2893 students who are from grade 1 to 5 were investigated and the data were statistically analysed. The results showed that 3.84% of primary school students have LD, male students with LD (5.35%) being more than female (2.17%). Most of these children had difficulties doing calculations and reasoning, with their specific learning difficulties more obvious after grade 3. Students with LD tended to have a number of specific difficulties which were in more than one area of scholastic attainment. These results imply that more attention should be given to students with LD primary schools in Vietnam. Keywords: Learning Disabilities, primary school students, specific learning difficulties. 1. Introduction Since Doctor Samuel Kirk first defined Learning Disabilities (LD) in 1963, it has come to be understood differently. In general, LD is considered to be a kind of disability manifested by specific difficulties in the acquisition and use of scholastic skills including listening, speaking, reading, writing, calculating, and reasoning, which is caused by central nervous system dysfunction. LD is differentiated from Intellectual Disabilities and not a direct result of sensory (visual or auditory) impairment, intellectual disability or environmental factors. LD is a developmental and life-long disability [4]. Most students with LD have a normal level of intelligence and are able to learn, but they have a lot of specific difficulties in scholastic skills and thus their academic achievements are much lower than their Received February 29, 2013. Accepted May 12, 2013. Contact Nguyen Thi Cam Huong, e-mail address: nch19381@yahoo.com 128 The status of students with a learning disability in Vietnamese primary schools classmates. LD is manifested evidently in the schooltime by specific learning difficulties in the basic scholastic skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing, calculating and reasoning) [4]. Identification of LD starts with discovering students’ specific difficulties in scholastic attainment. Learning Disabilities is something that has gotten a great deal of attention around the world but it is a new concept in Vietnam where there is no formal definition, no screening and no diagnostic tools. Also, no specific quantitative research has been done to access the number of LD students in Vietnam. Therefore, a study was needed to find out the number and distribution of LD students in primary schools and to direct future research that might support them. 2. Content 2.1. Methods 2.1.1. Participants Totally, there were 2893 students (see Table 1) from grade 1 to 5 in 4 primary schools (2 schools in Nghe An, 2 schools in Hanoi), including 1513 male (52.3%) and 1380 female students (47.7%) participating in the study from February to May 2012. (This sample made up 0.04 % of primary students in whole country). Table 1. The number of participants categorized by gender and grade Total Male Female Total 2893 1513 1380 Grade 1 (17 classes) 641 339 302 Grade 2 (18 classes) 585 292 293 Grade 3 (18 classes) 643 353 290 Grade 4 (15 classes) 471 243 228 Grade 5 (17 classes) 553 286 267 2.1.2. Identifying students with LD The characteristics of scholastic skills of students were investigated to identify their learning disabilities. These characteristics were reported by teachers who had been teaching them for nearly 9 months througth a questionaire called Checklist of learning disabled characteristic of students. This checklist was developed with reference to screening questionnaires used in Japan and USA, including basic information about the student and a list of conceptual specific difficulties noted in students with learning disabilities in six areas of scholastic attainment (listening, speaking, reading, writing, calculating, and reasoning). In each area, five specific difficulties were evaluated according to four levels of occurrence (from never to frequently). We identified students as having LD if all of the following conditions were met: - The student had specific learning difficulties if there were at least three frequently-occurred difficulties in at least one of the six scholastic skills (listening, 129 N.T.C.Huong, P.T.Huong, J.Paetzold, H.T. L.Quyen and D.N.T.Thu speaking, reading, writing, calculating and reasoning). - These specific learning difficulties could not be changed by teacher’s support within six months. - The student had not been diagnosed as having any disability. - His/her specific learning difficulties had not been caused due to the influence of psychological factors or the external environment. 2.1.3. Data processing and analysis The data were quantitatively analyzed by using the Direct Probability Calculation Method and Chi-square Test in Statistic software named JavaScript-Star version 5.5.0j (Original programming by Satoshi Tanaka). 2.2. Results and discussion 2.2.1. Overall prevalence of students with LD currently enrolled in primary schools Table 2 and Figure 1 show the distribution of students with LD categorized by gender and grade. The approach in this study identified 111 students from grade 1 to grade 5 (3.84%) as having learning disabilities. In comparison with the prevalence in other countries like the UK (3.5%) [1], Japan (4.5%) [2] and the USA (5.7%) [3], the prevalence of students with LD in Vietnam was different but matched the trend of the prevelence of primary school students with LD in the world, which is said to be below 10%. Table 2. LD students categorized by gender and grade Total of students Students with LD Total Male Female N % N % N % G1 641 16 2.50 13 3.83 3 0.99 G2 585 16 2.74 10 3.42 6 2.05 G3 643 29 4.51 21 5.95 8 2.76 G4 471 26N 5.52 20 8.23 6 2.63 G5 553 24 4.34 17 5.94 7 2.62 Total 2893 111 3.84 81 5.35 30 2.17 (N: The statistically analyzed result on number of students with LD from grade 1 to 5: χ2(4) = 9.015, .05<p<.10, Phi=0.055, significantly much more, with 90-95% accuracy), G: Grade, N: Number of students. The results of the statistical analysis showed that there was an important difference between LD boys and LD girls in that the percentage of males was 5.35% and of females it was 2.17%. This difference is consistent with previous studies abroad that, with ADHD and high functioned autism, there are more male students than female students with LD. This is particularly important for identifying LD students in further studies which should 130 The status of students with a learning disability in Vietnamese primary schools look at risk factors and ways to support them. Figure 1. The percentage of students with LD categorized by gender and grade Categorized by grade, the statistics show that the percentage of LD students in grades 3, 4 and 5 was higher than the average percentage, and therefore higher than in grades 1 and 2. The increase of LD students starting at grade 3 shows that their learning difficulties manifested more evidently at that time, with the possible cause being exposure to a larger amount of knowledge and skills. This result is similar to the results in some studies in Japan and to the teacher’s statements [4]. That the organized school environment might be the cause of the LD in this small number of students was not considered. 2.2.2. Prevalence of students with LD categorized by area of scholastic attainment The statistical analysis results revealed that there were more LD students in calculating and reasoning skills than in other skills in general. In particular, the percentage of LD students in calculating was statistically significantly and the highest (2.80%), the second was in reasoning (2.77%), and the last was in listening (1.11%). While male students had the most difficulties in calculating (3.90%), female students had the most difficulties in reasoning (1.67%). In the area of reasoning, 1st and 2nd graders made up the significantly lowest percentage while 4th graders made up the significantly highest. One explanation might be that there are not as many requirements on reasoning in the 1st and 2nd grades as in the other grades, whereas in the 4th grade the requirement for this skill is the greatest, thus the 1st and 2nd graders are likely to have less difficulties than the others and the 4th graders having difficulties in reasoning skill are more readily identified. Table 3. Students with LD categorized by academic skills in which they have difficulty Lis Speak Read Write Calc Rea p2 Total N 32 ∇ 53 57 62 81 N 80 N ** % 1.11 1.83 1.97 2.14 2.80 2.77 131 N.T.C.Huong, P.T.Huong, J.Paetzold, H.T. L.Quyen and D.N.T.Thu Male N 25 45 42 50 59 57 ns % 1.65 2.97 2.78 3.30 3.90 3.77 Fe-Male N 7 8 15 12 22 23 ns % 0.51 0.58 1.09 0.87 1.59 1.67 G 1 N 7 12 12 12 13 6∇ ns % 1.09 1.87 1.87 1.87 2.03 0.94 G 2 N 2 4∇ 5∇ 4∇ 9∇ 9∇ ns % 0.34 0.68 0.85 0.68 1.54 1.54 G 3 N 10 17 22△ 19 22 21 ns % 1.56 2.64 3.42 2.95 3.42 3.27 G 4 N 3 12 9 14 19 24 N △ * % 0.64 2.55 1.91 2.97 4.03 5.10 G 5 N 10 8 9 13 18 20 N * % 1.81 1.45 1.61 2.35 3.25 3.62 p1 ns + * + + ** Statistically analyzed result: ∇: significantly much less, N: significantly much more; **: 99% of accuracy, *: 95% of accuracy; +: from 90% to 95% of accuracy, ns: not significant; p1: The statistically analyzed results on number of students with LD from grade 1 to 5 categorized by each area of scholastic skills; p2: The statistically analyzed results on number of students with LD in general. It was evident that students in the first grade had many difficulties. Those difficulties seemed to descrease in the second grade but increase beginning in grade 3. One could guess that the curricurlum could be causing the students’ learning difficulties and it would necessary to monitor students with difficulties for long time in order to decide whether he or she in fact has LD. 2.2.3. Prevalence of a combination of specific learning difficulties in students with LD Table 4. Combination of difficulty areas in LD students (one area and multi-area) Total Male Female No. % SL % No. % One area 17 0.59 13 0.86 4 0.29 Multi areas Only 2 24 0.83 14 0.93 11 0.80 Only 3 17 0.59 12 0.79 5 0.36 Only 4 25 0.86 21 1.39 4 0.29 Only 5 13 0.45 9 0.59 4 0.29 All 6 14 0.48 12 0.79 2 0.14 > 2 94 3.25 68 4.49 26 1.88 G1 One 1 0.00 1 0.00 0 0.00 Comb 15 0.02 12 0.02 3 0.00 132 The status of students with a learning disability in Vietnamese primary schools G2 One 6 0.01 4 0.01 2 0.00 Comb 10∇ 0.02 6 0.01 4 0.01 G3 One 3 0.00 2 0.00 1 0.00 Comb 26 0.04 19 0.03 7 0.01 G4 One 3 0.01 2 0.00 1 0.00 Comb 23N 0.05 18 0.04 5 0.01 G5 One 3 0.01 2 0.00 1 0.00 Comb 21 0.04 15 0.03 6 0.01 Table 4 shows that the percentage of LD students who had difficulties in only one scholastic skill was 0.59% whereas the percentage of LD students who had difficulties in multi-areas was higher (3.25%). This means that most LD students in this study had difficulties in 2 or more areas of scholastic attainment. The statistical analysis result shows that the grade 2 LD students who had difficulties in multi-areas were significantly the lowest while those in grade 4 were significantly the highest. This result also implies that an increase in number of LD students who had difficulties in multi-areas after 5 years in a primary school environment. It is possible that if a student has difficulty in one academic area, and he or she does not receive prompt assistance, he or she will become discouraged and will then go on to have difficulties in other areas. Test results would show this to be a secondary disability or a drop-out [4]. Table 5. Combination of difficulty areas in LD students (in each scholastic skill) Area No. % Listening (32 students) Only listening 3 0.10 Listening + 29 1.0 Speaking (53 students) Only in speaking 1 0.03 Speaking + 52 1.8 Reading (57 students) Only reading 4 0.14 Reading + 53 1.83 Writing (62 students) Only writing 1 0.03 Writing + 61 2.11 Calculating (81 students) Only calculating 5 0.17 Calculating + 76 2.63 Reasoning (80 students) Only reasoning 3 0.1 Reasoning + 77 2.66 Note: . . . +: with other areas. The statistically analyzed results on number of students with LD who had difficulties in multi-areas by grade: χ2 (4)= 11.053, p< .05 Phi=0.060 (∇: significantly much less, N: significantly much more); Comb: Combination. Table 5 shows that in each scholastic skill, the percentage of students with LD that had difficulties in both calculating and one or more other areas was 2.63% while the percentage of those having difficulties in both reasoning and one or more other areas was 2.66%. These were the highest percentage while the percentage of students with signs of LD who had difficulties in 133 N.T.C.Huong, P.T.Huong, J.Paetzold, H.T. L.Quyen and D.N.T.Thu Figure 2. The percentage of students with LD categorized by area of scholastic attainment listening was the lowest (1.0%). Of the 6 academic areas, listening and speaking are categorized into the group ‘verbal language skills’; reading and writing are categorized into the group ‘written language skills’; reasoning and calculating are caterogized into the group ‘mathematic skills’. Table 6. Combination of difficulty areas in LD students in Vietnam and Japan In Vietnam In Japan % Number % Difficulties in verbal language skills 23 0.8 (*) 1.1 (*) Difficulties in written language skills 43 1.5 2.5 Difficulties in mathematic skills 66 2.3 2.8 Total 111 3.84 4.5 Figure 3. The percentage of LD students categorized by group of difficulty areas in Vietnam and Japan (Students have difficulties in these skills and these may be combined with other difficulty areas) 134 The status of students with a learning disability in Vietnamese primary schools Table 6 and Figure 3 show areas of difficulty areas for LD students in Vietnam and Japan. The percentage of LD students who had difficulties in verbal language skills was the lowest (0.8%) while the percentage of LD students who had difficulties in mathematic skills was the highest (2.3%). The percentage of LD students who had difficulties in written language skills was 1.5%. This shows that although there are differences between Vietnam and Japan (Mext, 2003) regarding the percentage of LD students, there is a similar trend of increasing number of LD students in mathematic skills compared to other skills. It is also seen that the percentage of Japanese students with LD who had difficulties in written language skills (2.5%) was much higher than those in Vietnam (1.5%). This reflects the influence of language on the development of literacy skills of students, and Japanese language is considered to be more complicated than Vietnamse language. 3. Conclusion This study provides a database of LD students in primary schools in Vietnam. These results are relatively consistent with findings in other countries and show the influence of teaching methods and curriculum content on student’s learning and acquisition of scholastic skills. It encourages school staff members and teachers to coordinate more closely with community forces (special education experts, families, health care facilities, etc.) for make an early identification and promptly support LD students in Vietnamese primary schools. REFERENCES [1] Emerson E., Hatton C., 2007. The Mental Health of Children and Adolescents with Learning Disabilties in Britain. Lancaster University p.5. [2] Mext (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport, Science and Technology in Japan), 2003. The report on national investigation on actual conditions of students with special needs in mainstream schools. [3] U.S. Department of Education, 2003. Twenty-second Annual Report Congress on the Implementation of the Children with Disabilities with Disabilities Education Act. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, p.32. [4] Ueno Kazuhiko, 2009. Deep understanding of Learning Disabilities. Natsume Press, Japanese, p.90. 135
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