Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[op-ed snap]Learning little

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Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health,Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge about the findings of ASER.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the findings of ASER and what could be the way forward, in a brief manner.


Context

  • The latest ASER assessment of how children are faring in schools in rural areas indicates there has been no dramatic improvement in learning outcomes.
  • It has observed that the reading and arithmetic abilities in rural schools are shockingly dismal.

Findings of the Annual Status of Education Report

  • According to the Annual Status of Education Report, Rural (2018), the picture that has emerged is one of a moribund system of early schooling in many States, with no remarkable progress from the base year of 2008.
  • Except for a small section at the top of the class, the majority of students have been let down.
  • The survey for 2018 had a reach of 5.4 lakh students in 596 rural districts.
  • The administrators must be alerted by the fact that while 53.1% of students in Class 5 in rural government schools could in 2008 read a text meant for Class 2, the corresponding figure for 2018 stood at 44.2%.
  • For comparison, private schools scored 67.9% and 65.1% for the same test in those years.
  • Arithmetic ability showed a similar trend of under-performance, although there has been a slight uptick since 2016: an improvement of about 1.5 percentage points in government schools and 1.8 percentage points in private institutions, among Class 5 students.
  • Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Kerala and Haryana did better on the arithmetic question with over 50% students clearing it, compared to Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and even Karnataka, which scored below 20%.
  • A significant percentage of students were not even able to recognise letters appropriate for their class, highlighting a severe barrier to learning.

What needs to be done?

  • Setting up a Review mechanism:Now that the ASER measure is available for 10 years, the Centre should institute a review mechanism involving all States for both government and private institutions, covering elementary education and middle school.
  • A public consultation on activity-based learning outcomes, deficits in early childhood education, and innovations in better performing States can help.
  • At present, children start learning in a variety of environments: from poorly equipped anganwadi centres to private nurseries. Therefore, any policy framework should also consider this aspect

Right to Education Act

  • The enactment of the Right to Education Act was followed by a welcome rise in enrolment, which now touches 96% as per ASER data.
  • Empowering as it is, the law needs a supportive framework to cater to learners from different backgrounds who often cannot rely on parental support or coaching.
  • There is concern that curricular expectations on literacy and numeracy have become too ambitious, requiring reform.

Way Forward

  • The solutions may lie in multiple approaches.
  • The need is to look at innovation in schools and incentivising good outcomes.
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