ARE STUDENTS LEARNING?

The New Education Policy has gone through long debate and discussion. It is time to put it into action.  But the crucial issue is how will all the lofty ideas be translated into better learning?

It is essential to worry about this. Because what students seem to be learning in government schools today, or rather what they are not learning, is a matter of grave concern. This may seem to be a sweeping statement to make, but many of those concerned with school education would agree. A large number of studies, including the well-respected PROBE reports endorse this.

But sometimes, large numbers, averaged statistics, and thick, academic reports don’t really communicate effectively. So let us look at one small example. A test was administered to a group of 457 youth, of whom 7 were below SSC, 104 were SSC Pass, and the remaining were Inter Pass, Diploma, Graduates etc. Meaning, 346 of the candidates were at least Inter or Std 12 pass. The test consisted of a few basic math and science questions administered in the mother tongue, and a middle-school level comprehension passage also administered in the mother tongue. The test did not include anything beyond Std 8 competencies, and in fact, many of the questions should theoretically have been answered correctly by Std 4 students.

The questions and results are summarized below:

Observations for Math and Science Competencies

 

Question Level Question % of Students who have answered correctly
Math
1 What is the addition of the following numbers:    6578 + 9342 91.40
1 Multiply the following:  782 x 421 68.40
2 Solve 4 × 5 ÷ 2 + 7 =? 71.90
2 If you have got 763/800, what is your percentage? 63.00
2 What is the average of Average of 98 and 62? 63.20
2 You have Rs. 219. You give 2/3 to your brother. How much money are you left with? 52.90
3 Identify the ‘right angle’ triangle 84.00
3 What is the next number in the sequence 1 4 9 16? 51.60
3 What is the next number in this sequence 1 1 2 3 5? 55.10
Science
2 H2O is the chemical name of which common element? 68.90
2 What is the name of the satellite that revolves around Earth? 49.20
2 Approximately, how long does the Earth take to complete one orbit around the Sun? 64.70
3 If you have poor eye sight, you are likely to be suffering from the deficiency of which vitamin? 44.80
3 Name the process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy into chemical energy? 75.40
Question Level
1 Class III-IV level questions
2 Class V-VI level questions
3 Class VII-VIII level questions

 

Observations for Reading Comprehension

  • Overall 41% of the total youth were able to answer all the questions correctly in Reading Comprehension and get a score of 100%
  • 9% students were not able to answer any question correctly and thus scored ‘0’ in Reading Comprehension

 

Admittedly this was not very scientific test, maybe not on a representative sample. There could many questions about the methodology and process. But to my mind, that still does not excuse the results!

What is wrong with our schools? We are revising curricula and re-writing textbooks; we are training teachers ad infinitum; we are giving grants for everything from school toilets to teaching-learning material. But at the end of the day, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And this pudding doesn’t taste at all right!

Increasing the financial allocation for Education is the first big step. But this is the time to take a serious and hard look at how this money should be spent. Doing more of the same is not going to get us anywhere, because what we are doing is obviously not good enough. There needs to be a National Mission to ensure that our children learn—our future depends on this.

–Meena

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