PISA will benefit India: Oxford Education MD

PISA will benefit India: Oxford Education MD

More focus on assessment and personalised learning besides participation in the global student programme PISA after a gap of over a decade will help India become an active player on the international education stage, says Oxford Education MD Fathima Dada.

"Because Oxford University Press (OUP) is a charity and belongs to Oxford University, we tend to take long and medium-term view and we are very excited about India," South Africa-born Dada, who was in India recently, told PTI in an interview.

India, she says, has the right demography, the population is becoming ever more and more skilled and in the last 10-20 years, it has become a resource of technology, IT and engineering.

She says despite economic growth shrinking in India and also in China, both these countries are still sitting in the 5-7 range.

"So we see slight adjustment happening, which businesses are thinking of how to cope with. We think India is a market that we want to be in," Dada, whose one grandmother is from Bengal and her grandfather from Gujarat, says.

According to her, there are exciting times in store for India because of its strong digital and technology industry.

"A curriculum change is in the offing. If there is a lot more focus on assessment, personalised learning and on the stem subjects - science, maths etc, then together with PISA, India can become quite an active role player on the global stage," she says.

Dada is also impressed by the numbers. "Look at your numbers - the number of students you have as your maths, science standard is measured. I think it gives more energy into improving and making it even better."

India has recently announced that it will participate in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) conducted by the Organisation for the Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). After an abysmal performance in its only appearance in PISA in 2009, India stayed away from the test in 2012 and 2015.

Carried out every three years for OECD members and partner nations, PISA is meant to assess key knowledge and skills of students in the age group of 15 years in mathematics, science and reading.

According to OUP India MD Sivaramakrishnan Venkateswaran, recent explosion of availability of affordable data in India and mobile penetration really add to content.

OUP launched its education division last September and it is being officially formed on April 1. It covers almost the entire globe with the exception of a few South American countries.

"What’s interesting about it is that it provides good opportunities to collaborate and learn. For instance, the UK can learn about innovation from India. On the other hand, Australia has fantastic digital infrastructure and some of the world’s best learning content that’s data driven, analytics driven personalised learning. And countries like India and China and those in Africa can learn from Australia," Dada says.

Also with big international tests like PISA, the world is becoming smaller and countries are beginning to compare their maths, science and reading performance against each other, she says.

"So we can learn the best practices. For example, people in India are really strong in early reading and in primary English and those in a place like Australia are not that strong. So Australia can learn what the best practice in India is."

Dada is also of the view that India offers huge opportunity for OUP as far as taking education to remote areas is concerned.

"Some parts of the remote areas we can’t access because the state supports the schools with learning materials but certainly it is not for lack of trying.

"The way our infrastructure is arranged, the people that we have in India and all over, we are very committed to it. We measure it and spread across the country because we have to be where our customers, our students and teachers are," she says.

Digitisation, she says, is central to OUP’s future strategy.

"In India, the education division has been at the forefront of one of our biggest strategies. We look at integrated learning programmes which bring a combination of print in your usual textbook, packaging to meet government requirements for low weight etc and also world class quality digital assets and digital learning tools which will help us measure not only student progress but also help teachers save time and bring digital into the classroom."

For teacher professional development, she says OUP has some very exciting ideas about partnering with Oxford University to try and work more closely with teachers to upgrade some of their skills and India is at the forefront of that.

She also says that the Oxford Star programme has helped in developing a co-curriculum for the soft skills, 21st century skills and it brings side by side the hardest skills in literary and numeracy in science.

Sivaramakrishnan adds that all of OUP’s English course books have 3-4 key elements keeping in mind the weight of the school bag.

"There is a course book, there is a work book, there is a reader, there is a grammar component, all integrated into one. Five years ago, there were individual books. And an essential part of the pedagogy is spoken English," he says.

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