Is country’s basic education system faulty?

Prajakta Joshi
Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Many Indian students unable to perform daily tasks with literacy, numeracy skills, suggests a report

Pune: The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2017, carried out by NGO Pratham, indicates that as far as basic foundation skills like reading and arithmetic are concerned, a significant percentage of youths in our country cannot perform daily tasks and common calculations in every day life. 

The data shows that substantial number of young people who have completed 8 years of schooling have difficulty applying their literacy and numeracy skills to real world situations. Reacting to the issue, educationists feel the teaching and evaluation system in India is to be blamed for this.

About 25 per cent of teens in the age group of 14 to 18 years cannot read basic text fluently in their own language and more than half struggle with division (3 digit by 1 digit) problems, states the ASER 2017 report. Less than 60 per cent of the youth could tell the time accurately. Only 58 per cent of those who have completed 8 years of schooling or are enrolled in school or college can read and follow instructions. “This isn’t something new. It has been happening in our country for years now, and yet we are falling short in changing the situation.  

Our teaching and evaluation methods have to be scrutinised and changed. As long as students don’t enjoy learning, things won’t change,” Vasant Kalpande, former chairman of Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education said.

He added, “Instead of spoon-feeding the answers to all questions, we need to boost their creativity. They should be encouraged to apply their knowledge and figure out their queries. The experiential learning approach needs to be adopted by more schools.”

He said that in learning, there should be less focus on paper-pencil and more on application or practical-based learning.
Less than two-thirds of teens in the age group of 14 to 18 years can correctly do the calculations related to managing a budget, taking purchase decision or applying discounts. 

As far as geography and general knowledge is concerned, while 86 per cent recognised the map of the country, only 64 per cent could tell the name of the capital correctly and hardly 42 per cent could point out their state on the map.

Echoing a similar opinion, Basanti Roy, former Mumbai divisional secretary, Maharashtra state board said this report is a learning lesson for teachers and they need to take it seriously.
“It’s the teachers’ job to see to it that the students know how to apply the textbook concepts taught in the classrooms. Learning needs to be meaningful and the teachers should connect it to real life examples. 

A huge shift in the current teaching methodology will help accomplish this. Presently, we have really good textbooks. 
The teachers should improve their viewpoint towards the syllabus, and develop skills, analytical thinking, questioning ability in the students instead of promoting mugging up of the concepts for the exams,” Roy said. 

ASER reports
† Since 2006, ASER has focused on the age group 5 to 16 years. In 2017, ASER focused on an older age group, teens who are 14 to 18 years old for the first time.
† The enrollment gap between males and females in the formal education system increases with age. At age 18, around 32% females are not enrolled as compared to 28% males.
† When mathematical questions were combined,  only 15% could answer both questions correctly. Among those who could do division, about 20% could answer both correctly. 

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