Learning outcomes: schools are failing

A competency test conducted by the National Council of Educational Research and Training in February across 610 districts in 34 states and union territories in the country lays bare poor learning outcomes among Class X students. Students were tested in Mathematics, Modern Indian Languages, English, Science and Social sciences. Across the country, Class X students performed dismally. While students from Karnataka fared better than their counterparts in several other states, this is no reason for celebration as the state’s Class X students, too, displayed poor learning outcomes. Around 62% of students did not show the desired level of learning in math and science. Some 55% could not answer correctly most of the questions in social science, 58% in English and 45% in a modern Indian language. A student’s performance in the Class X examination significantly determines her future options. This is especially the case with girls, because parents often get girls married if they fail the Class X exams. Moreover, performance in Class X determines career choices. It is therefore distressing that children are poorly prepared for this decisive examination. Importantly, dismal performance indicates that the student learned little from her 10 years at school.

Studies have found that unlike small private schools, which recruit teachers who are poorly qualified, schools run by the government hire better qualified teachers. However, government school children perform poorly compared to their counterparts in small private schools. This is because children going to government schools come from poor families, where parents are more likely to be illiterate. These parents are unable to help their children with their studies or provide an atmosphere that is conducive for studying at home after school hours. Additionally, children from poor socio-economic backgrounds get little time to study after school as they have to help at home with domestic chores or the family trade.

Several studies evaluating learning outcomes among children have been done over the past decade. All point to poor learning outcomes and limited reading and writing skills. What are governments at the central and state levels doing about the data collected in these studies? Are educational departments and examination boards drawing lessons from them? Are the different departments and boards consulting each other on best practices? Last year, the Karnataka government announced that it was working with four NGOs in the field of education to improve student motivation, capacity-building, etc. Is it working? Challenges that are blocking children from learning in schools are complex. But tackling them is not impossible.

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Learning outcomes: schools are failing

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