Reforms in school edu, a necessity

The report, which is based on data collected in 596 rural districts across the country, draws attention to poor reading and math skills among children in the three to 16 years age group.

The Annual Status of Education Report (Aser) 2018, compiled by the non-profit Pratham, provides reason for much concern over poor learning outcomes of our school children. The report, which is based on data collected in 596 rural districts across the country, draws attention to poor reading and math skills among children in the three to 16 years age group. According to the report, in 2018, just 27.2% of all children in Class III, 50.3% in Class V and 73% in Class  VIII could read a Class II level text. As for mathematics, of all children in Class III, 28% were able to do at least subtraction and about 44% of Class VIII children could solve a three-digit by one-digit division problem correctly. A comparison of 2018 figures with those in the last couple of years indicates improvement, even ‘substantial improvement’ with regard to some skills.

The percentage of children in Class III who can read a Class II level text has grown from 21.6% in 2013 to 23.6% in 2014, 25.1% in 2016, and 27.2% in 2018. This is visible in mathematics as well. In Punjab, the proportion of government school children in Class VIII who were able to solve a three-digit by one-digit division problem increased from 48% to 58.4% over the past two years. However, when learning outcomes are compared over a decade, they show deterioration. In 2008, 53% of children in Class V rural government schools could read a text for Class II but this figure fell to 44.2% in 2018. There has been an improvement in school infrastructure too. The number of toilets for girls in school has doubled in recent years. However, such improvements are not uniform; many schools in the Northeastern states and Jammu and Kashmir do not have drinking water facilities or toilets. Except for Assam, other states in the Northeast did not have library books.

The Aser report underscores the fact that children in our rural schools are not acquiring reading or math skills appropriate to their age group. A large number of children are drifting from one class to another without picking up skills. India’s enrolment figures have improved dramatically in recent years. Only 2.8% children in the 6-14 age group are out of school. While school enrolment is undoubtedly important, it is meaningless if children do not learn much at school, if only to facilitate their capacity to conduct their business or ply a trade without getting cheated.

Learning outcomes are poor in schools because the educational system prioritises rote learning and regurgitation of text book material. A meaningful reform of the curriculum and teaching methods is required. Introduction of a more practical and field-trip based learning will ensure better outcomes.

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Reforms in school edu, a necessity

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