IN SCHOOL, BUT ARE THEY
Across the country, there is a simmering unease with the education that our 315 million students are getting. Everybody wants education, but most are dissatisfied with it. The biggest issue is this: will it help make a better life? But there is also the feeling, often confirmed, that students are not really learning much.
Several surveys of how well students are learning have shown dismal results.According to the ASER 2013 survey report, 60% of Class 3 students surveyed couldn’t read a Class 1 text. This is up from 53% in 2009. This doesn’t improve in higher classes –53% of Class 5 students couldn’t read a Class 2 text, up from 47% in 2009. A higher proportion is unable to deal with subtraction and division.
Although she doesn’t give much credence to these surveys, Anita Rampal, professor of elementary and social education at Delhi University’s Central Institute of Education, agrees that the schooling system is not delivering. There are three key factors behind a successful schooling system, according to her: building of knowledge and critical faculties,
good facilities and environment in school, and an equitable system where all kinds of children learn together.
“In India, we’re lagging in all three and that is why students are not learning to their full potential,” rues Rampal.
Lessons in schools are often information driven, with the teacher giving information that students are expected to soak up and reproduce in the poorly designed examinations, she explains. Classrooms are dull, teachers just stuff information into students and the exam-centric approach finishes off any possibility of ‘learning’.
Contrary to popular perception, children drop out of school most often because they are not getting anything from it, says Meena Shrinivasan, an award winning children’s books author and educational consultant.
“Either the language used in school is too foreign to them and they are treated like inferior species, or the matter being taught is irrelevant, or the absence of toilets for girls makes it impossible to continue, or the teacher is harsh and beats children for not understanding or performing, or it is all just so boring and burdensome that it is just more fun to drop out,” she says. The most vulnerable students, dalits, tribals and girls quit school the first. A recent survey of nearly 1.52 million schools by NUEPA reveals a startling picture of facilities in schools. Over 41% schools do not have a playground, 43% don’t have electricity connection, 76% don’t have computers. Although more than three quarters of the schools had a library, 82% did not have a librarian to look after the books and guide the children. Worldwide, research shows that one of the most reliable predictors of success in later grades is good reading ability in early grades, which comes from good teaching and from a print-rich environment, says Shrinivasan. “Most children in this country come from homes where recreational reading is not a priority or even a possibility, and so they depend on school for their books. Most schools tend to choose some preachy morally uplifting books that no one wants to read, and these too are not easily accessible to children,” she stresses. Teachers who enjoy books and can share this passion with children, and know how to teach reading, and a plentiful supply of age-appropriate interesting fiction and non-fiction are what children need more than any other educational input, Shrinivasan says.
But the condition of teachers is such that 28% teachers in primary schools are not even professionally qualified according to official statistics. In some states the situation is even worse. In the eight north-eastern states, just 36% teachers are qualified on an average. In Bihar, Bengal and J&K about 3 out of 5 teachers are not duly qualified to teach primary students.
Whole generations of children—-India’s future - are going through this broken education system, somehow managing to get past exams, or dropping out by the wayside. It is not difficult to imagine what their, and the country’s future is likely to be if things are not improved drastically
1. Why is there a simmering unease with the education that 315 million students are getting today?
2. What are the possible three key factors behind a successful schooling?
3. What are the factors that let a large number of students drop out of school in the middle?
4. What is the general condition of teachers in most of our primary schools?