Relearning to teach

The QS higher education rankings of our universities and colleges tell us exactly what years of Assessment Survey Evaluation Research (ASER) reports and now the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report says of our schooling system.

School level teaching is unable to inspire a satisfactory learning environment and while children move up from one grade to another, they learn little and comprehend even less.

Waking up to the gaping quality deficit weighing down the gains India may have achieved through programmes such as Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the Right To Education Act in terms of high enrollment, the government proposes a fresh approach during the 12th five year plan.

Access, equity and quality have been the bywords for our education policy for years now. The 12th plan will add a fourth dimension: improving learning outcomes. Finally acknowledging that all is not well with our education system, the government concedes that it must be assessed just why a fifth grade student is unable to comprehend a grade 1-level numerical lesson.

While it is refreshing to see the government accept the larger point made by independent rankings, a systemic overhaul will be required to mark the big shift from 'schooling' to 'learning'. Investment of time, funds, resources and expertise will have to be directed in mission mode to enhance learning levels with due focus on curriculum, teachers and teaching methods. It will also be worthwhile to observe the pedagogy and classroom environment in countries that lead the Programme for International Student Assessment tally. The 12th plan cites the highly successful Scandinavian model of inclusive classrooms.

The 12th plan document suggests that literacy and numeracy should not just be 'traditional' but also keep in mind Programme for International Student Assessment requirements and deploy the best teachers in primary grades to ensure strong basic foundations for children. It also suggests setting up 'national learning standards' and 'meaningful learning goals' besides the equally necessary national performance standards for teachers.

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