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What Works? Delivering Effective Education In Modern Day Schooling

Despite the RTE Act having been in force since 2010 and providing eight years of compulsory education, together with the Government promoting educational schemes such as “Padhe Bharat Badhe Bharat” (India that learns, grows too), there is still a long way to go to ensure that all children are getting a consistent, high-quality education.

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Education in India has evolved dramatically due in large part to the adoption of new approaches replacing older ones, such as rote learning. The good news is that according to the 2018 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), the proportion of children (aged 6-14) who are not enrolled in school has fallen below 3% for the first time in ten years and the percentage of all children in Standard III who can read at Standard II level is steadily improving (from 21.6% in 2013 to 27.2% in 2018). For the first time since the introduction of the Right to Education (RTE) Act 2010, India has witnessed tangible improvements in learning outcomes. 

However, the bad news is that the ASER report also states that in 2018 only half of Standard V students could read at Standard II level or above and only 27.8% could do basic arithmetic. Furthermore, only one in four children in rural India leaves Standard VIII without basic reading skills and there are wide variations between states. 

Despite the RTE Act having been in force since 2010 and providing eight years of compulsory education, together with the Government promoting educational schemes such as “Padhe Bharat Badhe Bharat” (India that learns, grows too), there is still a long way to go to ensure that all children are getting a consistent, high-quality education. So what needs to be done to address these real issues in a modern India? 

The key is having a better understanding of what works in the classroom. The education sector needs to develop an approach to assessing progress that informs and guides children’s learning and captures the skills and content taught. To ensure a smooth introduction of these changes, smart assessment tools need to be designed to generate data that capture age-appropriate student capability that can be used by teachers and learners across the country. 

However, it needs to be more than just monitoring pupil progress. Alongside assessment, there is a need to have a better understanding of which specific interventions, teaching approaches and educational resources have the most positive impact on teaching and learning. How can we share best practice across the school community? This can be done through research on how teaching interventions and learning materials are affecting learner outcomes, enabling teachers to make evidence-based decisions. But the evaluation needs to be rigorous. Research is only one piece of the puzzle and needs to be considered alongside teacher and parent feedback and class/school performance.

Dr James Hall, Associate Professor, University of Southampton, UK, explains: “The accurate assessment of pupil progress is vital to measuring whether education has been effective. However, effective education cannot be determined solely upon this basis. We also need accurate information regarding other reflections of effective education (e.g. pupil attendance & mental health) plus the factors that create effective education (e.g. curricula & teaching practices).”

What next? Educational suppliers have an important role to play here. Indeed, some education companies have already introduced Efficacy or Impact studies to help educators understand how products can impact a learner’s life. For example, do these books engage pupils and help them adopt a love of reading? They also cover intended benefits for teachers, such as saving them time.

At Oxford University Press (OUP), we developed Oxford Impact; a rigorous approach to evaluating the impact of our educational products and services. Dr Penelope Woolf, Head of Oxford Impact: “We work with educators across the globe to carry out impact studies on our educational resources. By sharing the findings from this research we enable educators to identify the outcomes that matter most to their students. Findings can also be used to inform product development to ensure that resources are optimal for future learners and integrated into education for the benefit of all.”

India’s recent announcement that in 2021 they will re-join the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which tests performance of 15-year-old schoolchildren in mathematics, science and reading, is a testament to the country wanting to be measured globally. As we move towards an information age, the next transformation towards better educational outcomes is a matter for serious debate and discussion and an opportunity to improve assessment. Sharing best practice across schools and evaluating the impact of resources can provide a more accurate picture of student progress and ensure continued improvement in attainment for pupils at all levels across the country.

All numbers and statistics have been taken from: Annual Status of Education Report (Rural) 2018 (India: ASER Centre, 2019).

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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