Acceleration: A Controversy
Today the word ‘acceleration’ continues to generate controversy. Every one sees acceleration from different point of view. Some say that acceleration has lots of negative effects so that it is not a good way to hold it. But, is it totally true? Is there any solution so that acceleration can run well? Before coming to the controversy itself, it will be better to see the history why acceleration is chosen by government.
Quality of Indonesian human resources is still low and left behind from the other ASEAN countries. This condition has been stated in the examination result of United Nations Development Program (UNDP) on 2000 that the quality of Indonesian human resources lied on the 109th place from 174 countries (Republika, 12/03/2002, p.5). Government realized that one way to increase human quality of Indonesia, as the resource and the aim of development, is through the improvement of education quality. Education is a means of obtaining knowledge which can be used to improve the intelligence and prosperity of the Indonesian society. Thus, government has planned and has held several policies related to the improvement of our education quality such as Sekolah Luar Biasa for those who has physical or mental defect, Sekolah Terbuka for those who has dropped out, and Program Percepatan Belajar (PBB), which is known as acceleration program, for those who are gifted.
Acceleration is the practice of giving students material and assignments that are usually received by older or higher grade students. Acceleration also can be a program provided for high intellectual students who have passed the selection with the differentiation curriculum and shorter time accomplishment, 2 years. It involves the use of existing school curricula, although it may also include additional material (De Lacy, 1996). In other words, acceleration implies that academically advanced students will progress faster through the school system than other students, and it implies that students who master more advanced subject will receive academic credit and promotion based on their level of mastery, not the “seat time” spent in school. Thus, acceleration is a program for academically advanced students and it is held based on students’ level of mastery, not the time students take in particular schools.
In discussing the controversy towards acceleration, it is necessary to examine a number of examples and arguments, both supports and against.
Acceleration is intended to facilitate learning for highly able students who might be limited in repetitive experiences. Supporters claim that acceleration places these students where they will be exposed to the academic challenging they need, thus promoting real advances in their skill and understanding. Yet, acceleration sparks resistance from some educators, parents, and other critics who argue that acceleration rushes students through school, putting students’ social, emotional, and even intellectual development at risk.
As a positive consideration, Dr. Jane C. Charlton’s experience can be a good example. She is one who has chosen to learn more rapidly and who has been permitted to do so tend to be positively enthusiastic about accelerative options. She is now assistant professor of astrophysics at Pennsylvania State University. She received her Ph.D at age 22 from the University of Chicago, took her first college-level course at the age of 13 after she had completed the seventh grade. She then decided to begin full-time college-level studies at age 14. Dr. Charlton’s example, though very unusual, illustrates acceleration’s capacity to help outstanding students make good use of their time and avoid boredom. The lack of challenges that good students sometimes feel in school is not only tragic, it is damaging. Academic boredom at a young age can lead to lack of motivation and less developed work habits.
However, many children in their early teens say they do not want to be labeled as “gifted”, or they do not want to be accelerated. For example, Tasya’s experience. Tasya is a twelve-year-old girl. She finished her elementary level only in five years. Her secondary level, she can accomplish in only two years. Moreover, she entered her elementary in very young age, five years old. Now she has to enter senior high school in the age that other students commonly enter junior high school. With all her experience, she did not want to enter the acceleration class anymore. She felt that entering acceleration class means she cannot enjoy her teenage. From Monday to Friday she has to study starts at seven in the morning and finish at four in the afternoon. On Saturday, when others join extracurricular program and are free from academic activity, she is busy with various practicum.
In term of its impact on social and emotional adjustment, those who express doubt about acceleration tend to affirm the importance of biological age, asserting that children need to develop among peers who reflect their own level of physical, emotional, and social development. From this perspective, acceleration can change the social or education pattern that already occur in society. Students will focus on one subject only and tend to forget the rest. On the other hand, supporters of acceleration tend to de-emphasize biological age, stressing instead the intellectual readiness of the student. They see intellectual readiness is a significant one that should not be sacrificed to other considerations.
In order to get a perspective on the debate over acceleration, consider that main reason in holding acceleration is to fulfill gifted students’ needs as their right to get education appropriately with their condition. The other philosophy is that in national development, human is a central of development. That is why; human has to be developed so that become a whole and natural human. But, Darmaningtyas, one of the consultants of Centre for the Betterment of Education, does not really agree with acceleration. For him, acceleration just accelerates students’ cognitive development, not students’ affective development. Class of acceleration can sharpen social discrimination among students. When the gifted is facilitated and grow in the separate room, they will naturally build relationship in homogeny environment. But, in fact, it does not like that. In the real situation, they have to melt in the heterogenic society. Moreover, the gifted can be egoist and elitist. Meanwhile, basic thing of education is not only gain knowledge, but also building relation with others.
However, from several researches have been done in the field of the effects of acceleration on talented students, most shows us the positive effects of acceleration. In 1979, in a literature review that cited more than 220 sources, Stephen Daurio concluded that accelerated students perform at least as well as, and often better than, ‘normal-aged’ control students, on both academic and nonacademic measures.
In 1984, James A. Kulik and Chen-Lin C. Kulik published the findings of a broad meta-analysis–a “statistical analysis of a large collection of results from individual studies for the purpose of integrating the findings”–on the effects of accelerated instruction on elementary and secondary school students. According to their findings, acceleration promotes students’ intellectual development. “The analysis showed that examination performance of accelerates improved on by nearly one grade level the performance of non-accelerates of equivalent age and intelligence. Examination scores of accelerates were equivalent to those of same-grade but older, talented non-accelerates.” The Kuliks’ meta-analysis is peppered with references to the studies it surveys that prove to the learning benefits of acceleration. They support the conclusion of one researcher who stated in the late 1950s that it was “hard to find a single research study showing acceleration to be harmful and that many studies proved acceleration to be a satisfactory method of challenging able students.” The Kuliks go on to search the contradiction of why the consistently favorable results of studies on the learning benefits of acceleration have not been taken to heart by most educators, who often resist this strategy. They refer to one analyst who suggested that North American cultural values favor patterns of the “social or individual need for achievement and independence.” In addition, the Kuliks did not discover consistent findings on the effects of acceleration on students’ social and emotional adjustment. However, in an analysis published in 1983 based on a review of the literature investigating this question, Lynn Daggett Pollins confirmed that “not one study has found acceleration to harm the social and emotional development of gifted students permanently or severely.”
Next, a study carried out by the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins in 1994 found that 95% of the 175 youths in the study perceived consequences from acceleration although one-half also reported some negative consequences. Less than 2% reported only negative effects.
From the discussion above, it can be concluded that though acceleration has negative side—social difficulties–, still acceleration is a good way to fulfill gifted students’ needs. Research studies found that social difficulties do not have a great impact. It is strongly recommended for students, parents, and educators to consider the intellectual benefit of acceleration experiences. But also be aware of potential social disadvantages. The last but not least, acceleration opportunities should be adapted to the individual’s intellectual and social needs because every student is unique, has own characteristics, although their label is the same, gifted.