Where is the real learning?

It’s time that we look at some impressive data from the education field. In the wake of RTE, enrolment rates have surged, with an estimated 97 percent of all school-age children in rural India now enrolled in schools. (Though regular attendance and drop outs still remain significant challenges.) Perhaps more telling is the fact that enrolment at both government and affordable private schools have both risen in recent years. The willingness of families at every income level, even the lowest, to pay for what they view as a superior education signals a major shift in priorities. Between 2006 and 2013, enrolments in affordable private schools among rural children ages six to14 surged, from 13 to 29 percent.

Data shows that this is the 6thyear in a row that the enrollment rates have been 96 % and above. Schools with library books have seen an increase from 62.6 % (2010) to 78.1% (2014). The number of schools with computers has also an improvement from 15.8 % (2010) to 19.6 % (2014). The facilities for sanitation provided by the schools have also shown a positive growth. (Source: Acer 2014, Annual Status of Education Report).

In 2013–14, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation commissioned “Establishing Benchmarks of Student Learning” conducted by Educational Initiatives, a benchmark study of student learning in a variety of Indian schools, states, and grade levels. Approximately 75,000 students from class 3 to class 7 were tested as part of the study that included 45,000 students from government schools, 15,000 from affordable private schools, and 15,000 from the high-fee private schools across six states.

The study revealed that only few students across grades and the schools are able to read and identify simple words that are appropriate to the grade level, while significant approx 50% students still lag behind the basic skills of reading and comprehension. Children across grades enrolled in government schools show a decline in reading levels between 2010 and 2012. The scenario even in private schools is also not high and the gap seems to be widening.

Analysis of skills in Math across grades and schools revealed that students in government and affordable private schools struggle with basic arithmetic operations with only 25.3 % grade 3 students, 40% grade 4 students and 50% grade 5 students able to subtract. Moreover government school students find questions related to shapes, geometry, integers, and problem solving and data interpretation especially difficult. If this is not enough, we have around 55 million children in grades 1 & 2 and around 80 million children in grade grades 3–5 who lack the basic skills. (DISE — 2013–14). E.g. the data below shows the performance in basic operation ‘division’ for grade 5 students across schools.

The study suggests that students are still learning the basic Math skills and the performance in questions repeated across grades show negligible improvement. The misconceptions continue to carry forward.

With efforts made on several fronts, there is still a need to conduct robust assessments that bring out the serious issues in the field of education. It is the analysis of these assessments that help frame effective interventions focused towards student learning.

Enrollment figures would only make sense, when students enrolled are learning. It is necessary that we take meaningful action towards changing the dismal statistics of student learning. There is a need to set clear and achievable learning objectives within a definite timeline. One could begin with something as simple as getting the foundations at lower grades in place.

By Chitra Iyengar — Educational Specialist

Chitra Iyengar

I started out in the field of education accidentally initially, today its my choice. Am an ambivert believe in living life for the moment and love eating:)

“In order to provide each child with a whole child education, school and community leaders must relentlessly dissolve barriers and build cohesive systems that foster excellence. Only then will we fulfill our pledge to provide every child the opportunity to pursue a successful life.”

Connect with other great educators at : blog@ei-india.com

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Originally published at blog.ei-india.com on October 10, 2016.

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