Improving Learning Outcomes In School Education

Since 90% of a child’s brain is fully formed by age 5, the school education must nurture the child through creative learning and other developmental activities.

With over 1.5 million schools, India is home to the second-largest school system in the world after China. It also boasts the largest youth population in the world with 600 million people being under the age of 25. India can reap the advantage of this demographic dividend and embark on a higher growth trajectory provided it raises the education attainment levels and equips its youth with requisite skills. School education marks the foundation of a child’s career. Hence the beginning to revamp education system needs to be made from elementary level itself. Since 90 per cent of a child’s brain is fully formed by age five, the school education must nurture the child through creative learning and other developmental activities.

A recent Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) report has highlighted that at least 25 per cent of school children in the four-eight age-group do not have age-appropriate cognitive and numeracy skills, making for a massive learning deficit at a very early stage. According to the report, only 16 per cent of the children surveyed in Standard I can read at the level expected of that grade; while 39 per cent cannot even read a letter, 29 per cent can identify letters, and only 15 per cent can read a word. These statistics portray a dismal state of learning among children.  

Transforming school education through a quantum leap in improving learning outcomes will make the ecosystem in line with our aspirations for growth and prepare the workforce in tune with changing demands of the industry. This calls for adopting a comprehensive approach and rethinking traditional delivery models and its seamless integration with technology.  

There is an urgent need to redirect the focus of school education from an emphasis on rote learning and knowledge of facts towards play-based activities that build memory, critical reasoning, and problem-solving abilities. Unfortunately, the pressure of completing syllabus outpaces the student’s ability of comprehension of lessons. Taken into account the gap in learning, there is a need to activate comprehensive remediation strategy through practice classes, workbooks and much more. Such programmes are currently being implemented in Jharkhand, Haryana and Odisha and have yielded satisfactory results.  

Secondly, there is a need to revamp the curriculum to make it more relevant to the demands of the industry. An introduction of a vocational subject at school level will make a beginning of the transformation of education to prepare the workforce for Industry 4.0. There is a need to rethink curriculum to impart multiple skills along with specialist teachers, well-equipped labs and provision of apprenticeship. 

Another area where India is lagging is adequate training of teachers. To be sure, the teacher needs to master the content well herself as well as deliver it effectively to make a difference. For instance: he needs to know why there is a need for a conversion to a common denominator while adding fractions. Simultaneously, he should be able to demonstrate this understanding to students by use of hands-on material and real-time application. The mode of training needs to be geared towards personalization and interactivity. Technology can be a great enabler in customizing modules based on the child’s grasping skills and aptitude and complement the conventional learning models.  

In India, Anganwadi centres serve as a crucial pathway to a child’s development, health and overall well-being. Its wide network has facilitated the delivery of preschool services to close to approximately 33 million kids in 2017. However, there is a need for strengthening the institutional framework of Anganwadi workers rather than focusing on the mere expansion of the network. In several states, the lack of proper infrastructure in Anganwadi centres and absenteeism of ASHA workers has come to light. Expanding access to Anganwadi associates and strengthening the early childhood components in the ICDS system would help greatly in raising school readiness among young children.   

Lastly, coherence between central ministries is essential for improving early childhood education policymaking. It is desirable to encourage state and district administrations to have a greater say to make early education effective. Care should be taken that the core academic bodies such as SCERT (State Council of Educational Research and Training) and the DIET (District Institute for Education and Training) are fully functional with a competent staff.  Though the government has undertaken numerous initiatives and schemes to strengthen elementary education, what we need is greater synergy among them and robust implementation to ensure their benefits percolate to the grass-root level. Equally important is a need to put in place a comprehensive, up-to-date MIS system to map metrics like teacher attendance or learning levels which would facilitate more informed policymaking.  

Hence. a strong political will and a multi-stakeholder collaboration comprising bureaucracy, parents, students, civil society and corporate can make a tangible impact on the quality and competitiveness of schools and improving learning outcomes.  

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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