Sunday, 6 November 2011

Review school education

Despite the government's massive investment inprimary education, teaching and learning in rural India is far from perfect. A recent study conducted by the ASER Centre in collaboration with Unicef and Unesco, points out the critical challenges in rural Indian school education. 

The study brings forth six major issues that are hindering the teaching and learning processes in rural schools, including age-appropriate grade and gradeappropriate learning levels; textbooks having unrealistic expectations about what children can do and learn during an academic session; about a teacher's ability to teach regardless of his/her professional qualifications; the need for providing children-friendly environment in class through best practices; children absenteeism and of the importance of implementing the Right To Education (RTE) Act to ensure that children have a solid foundation.

Rural schools function on certain assumptions, which are creating a challenge in the teaching and learning process. "The government is not paying attention to what happens to children in schools. The school framework is built on assumptions that age-appropriate grades and grade-appropriate learning levels are the same for all children; that all children learn at the same pace, have the same learning skills and aspirations; that schools are places where both teachers and students learn. This is not true for rural India," explains R Govinda, vice-chancellor , National University of Education Planning and Administration (NUEPA), and interim director, National Council for Education Research and Training ( NCERT). 

The study followed about 30,000 children in 900 schools in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Rajasthan for a period of 15 months to see how much they learn in a year and the factors associated with the classroom, school and household that can lead to better learning. 

Besides addressing absenteeism of children in schools, there needs to be a focus on teachers and their development also. "The government is incapable of investing in teacher education because it has frozen investment in the sector. Teachers get the least attention. In rural areas, teachers need to be attracted to school teaching through incentives. We keep investing on the macro parameters like books, but need to work at the grassroots level, promoting and encouraging individuals to become teachers. It is the teacher who can provide a healthy atmosphere conducive to learning," he adds.

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