New norms for teachers to pay attention to students

The Union government has set clear goals for the teachers of elementary schools following several reports indicating a constant decline in the learning outcome of children studying in Classes I to VIII across the country. It has provisioned for laying down of subject-wise minimum learning outcomes (MLOs) for each of the elementary classes, making it mandatory for the teachers to ensure that every single student must achieve them by the time they complete their academic sessions.

To bring it under a legal framework, the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry has amended the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Rules, inserting two new Clauses. The ministry notified the revised RTE rules on February 22 in an official gazette, bringing them to immediate effect.

Under the revised rules, the state governments are required to lay down class-wise and subject-wise MLOs to facilitate the exercise from the academic session of 2017-18. They have to also rework the guidelines for the conduct of continuous and comprehensive evaluation (CCE) of the students’ performance so that teachers hold the classes and the periodic tests keeping in mind the revised provisions of the RTE rules.

The National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has laid down subject-wise MLOs distinctly for each of the elementary classes. It has also suggested appropriate pedagogical interventions that can be adopted or modified by the teachers to enable students achieve the minimum competency as required under the revised RTE Rules. “The states can adopt the MLO document of the NCERT as it is. They can also modify the NCERT’s MLO document as per their requirements and incorporate them into the CCE practice under the RTE Rules,” a HRD ministry official said.

The move is significant as it seeks to create a mechanism for close mapping and monitoring of the learning of every student of the elementary classes. “Most often, teachers were not clear about what kind of learning was desired. In the absence of clear-cut assessment criteria under the CCE so far, they just used textbooks as the complete curriculum and assessed students using questions from it,” an NCERT official said.

With the laying down of the MLOs, teachers should now be able to have a clear understanding of students’ progress and gaps in their learning. “Using contextual resources and appropriate learning processes, teachers can design and provide a variety of learning situations and opportunities as per the need of different learners in an inclusive classroom,” the official added.

The HRD Ministry hopes that the incorporation of provisions for MLOs in the RTE rules would help improve the quality of the elementary education and make the system more accountable.  The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has accepted the MLOs laid down by the NCERT and recently notified a revised CCE pattern for its implementation in some 18,000 schools affiliated to it. However, the major chunk of the schools comes under the domain of the states where the real problem exists.

While some nine lakh teachers’ posts are lying vacant in the elementary schools across the country, elementary schools in at least 17 states are being taught by a huge number of untrained teachers. The percentage of these untrained teachers in some of the states is very high.

The learning outcomes laid down by the NCERT demand a greater engagement between teacher and students as pedagogical interventions suggested by the council basically calls for individual student-centric approach to help every student in a class achieve the desired level of learning. It is not clear as to how the schools facing acute shortage of teachers would manage to cope up with the pressure and do justice with the intent behind the incorporation of MLOs into the RTE Rules.

Suggested pedagogical interventions also require every teacher to be “innovative” in his or her approach to help weaker students keep up the pace with others in their class and achieve a stated level of learning. With many of the States remaining indifferent towards getting their untrained teachers trained, idea of having innovations in class room seems to be a far fetched dream.

Improving quality
With the HRD ministry keeping focus on improving the quality of the government schools, the NCERT is gearing up to conduct an assessment of at least 200 million students of studying in schools, run or aided by the government to ascertain learning achievements of the children under the new parameters.

Besides, the ministry is also learnt to have approached the Australian Council of Educational Research for holding an independent learning outcome test of the elementary school students in India. The ACER conducts international students’ assessment programme for many countries. The ministry has approached the foreign agency after Niti Aayog suggested assigning the task of holding a sample learning outcome test of the elementary school children to some independent agency of international repute.

“Incorporation of the MLOs into RTE rules will help other government or non-government agencies conduct a closer assessment of schools performance with more precision at block, district and state level,” an official said. Parents would also get a fair idea of the expected level of learning and the performance of their wards.

“Assessment of MLOs will make the system informed and accountable as it will bring the system out in open. Everyone will come to know exactly what is going on in the schools. Results of the periodic assessment of the MLOs will help the government make appropriate policy interventions,” a ministry official said.

To improve the quality of education and overcome regional disparity in students learning, proper implementation of the revised RTE rules is the need of hour. This, however, would require the states to fill up the vacant teaching positions in a mission mode, deploy adequate number of qualified teachers in schools located in rural areas and create a mechanism for strict monitoring of teachers performance.
DH News Service

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