Education in India – The Context
In the last few decades, India has made tremendous progress in different aspects of education. Access to education has increased dramatically with about 98% of rural habitations having a primary school within a distance of 1 km. (MGD India Country Report 2015). Youth literacy rate (age group 15-24 years) has increased from 61.9% to 86.14% during the period 1991-2011.However, equity in and quality of education still remain a challenge resulting in poor learning outcomes and an overall loss of confidence in the public education system.
The sections below list out the some of the issues in different aspects of public education and the Foundation’s views on addressing them.
- India’s literacy rate is at 74.04% (82.14% for males and 65.46% for females). The global literacy rate for all males is 90.0% and the rate for all females is 82.7%.
- The Gender Parity Index (GPI) for Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in primary education, has been improving steadily but more needs to be done in secondary and tertiary education. The transition rate from elementary to secondary school in 2013-14 was 94.10% for boys and 89.68% for girls, and from secondary to higher secondary it was 68.7% for boys and 69.3% for girls. The data shows a significant number of girls being left behind.
- The estimated number of out of school children are 6 million (in 2014). Among them a higher proportion of females, children from rural areas and ST children are out of school than others. And 28.0% children with special needs are out of school.
- Classrooms must offer all students equal access and equal opportunity to achieve desired outcomes.
- Rationalize schools thoughtfully based on population, geographical terrain and safety with the caveat that proximate access in the early years is critical.
- Continue to provide cycles to older children to enable access.
- Provide a transport allowance where necessary for younger children, girls and children with special needs
- Several government programmes intended to improve quality have been implemented but most have not really translated into a changed reality for our students.
- The curriculum, classroom environment and pedagogical processes are not learner-centered and are primarily based on rote-learning. The prevailing modes of classroom interaction do not enable the development and unlocking of the imagination, creativity and critical thinking of the child.
- Student learning levels at all stages of education have remained well below expectations. The National Achievement Survey for class 3 conducted by NCERT in 2014 concluded that the national average for performance in language and mathematics were 64% and 66%, respectively.
- Curriculum should be flexible, broad and inclusive reflective of diverse local culture and knowledge.
- Offer a variety of learning experiences to students that help them meet their curricular goals.
- Use learning material beyond the textbook - use the local language and local resources in teaching especially during the early years.
- The teacher is central to good education - at its very core, education is the process between the teacher and the student. If education has to improve, teaching has to improve - there is no way around this.
- There are 7.96 million (in 2013-14) school teachers in India. The private sector comprises the lion’s share of teacher education Institutions in the country, with the government’s share being only 9 percent (2015).
- The quality of academic support, both pre-service and in-service, provided to teachers leaves much to be desired due to poor inputs, lack of resources and a series of professional constraints. Teaching has become mostly uninteresting and routinized, leading to poor classroom processes and little learning.
- Teaching is an intellectually and ethically demanding profession. Teachers must be seen as independent, capable and responsible professionals with respect for his/her professional identity and knowledge.
- Teacher preparation must be a long duration, professional program housed in the University system. Curriculum and pedagogy in teacher education must provide for rigorous theoretical understanding along with strong practical/field connect.
- Opportunities for continuous professional development must be made available to all teachers throughout their careers.
- Research shows that school leadership is the second largest factor affecting learning outcomes in school. More importantly, it goes on to show that school leadership is even more critical in schools that are under performing. While currently the country invests in teacher development, investments in leadership and managerial capabilities of education functionaries are negligible.
- The system is vexed with problems of hierarchical organisation structure, political interference, uncertain tenures, lack of risk-reward etc. which need to be addressed.
- School leaders need professional preparation, support and mentorship before and after they take on the role. They need platforms or mechanisms to interact with each other as professionals.
- Public education is still the largest provider of school education in India, with the government’s share of schools at 75.51 % and private schools at 22.09 % (2013-14). However, recent years have witnessed mushrooming of a large number of private schools across the country promising ‘better quality education and English learning’.
- Research evidence from India and other countries has shown conclusively that once socio-economic background has been factored in, performance of children is the same in both public and private schools.
- A strong public education system is central to democracy and equity cannot be served by a stratified system.
- Standardized assessments have begun to be been seen as a way of achieving learning outcomes and teacher accountability.
- There is also an argument being made to scrap the ‘No Detention’ policy up to the elementary level.
- Standardized tests have not worked anywhere in the world to improve learning outcomes – all they have done is cause stress and tension among teachers and students. Assessment is primarily of use to teachers and students as feedback for improvement – it is individual and best done at school.
- Though there are challenges in conceptualizing and implementing Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) - it still remains a pedagogically sound idea.
- There is no evidence to suggest that learning levels have declined since the No Detention policy was put in place - it would be more useful to focus on why learning is not happening since detention neither facilitates nor takes care of learning – though it certainly comes in the way of child continuing in school.