Why the Indian Education System has Failed?

This is Rukmini Banerjee. “This time around, 64% of the students have failed.” She is the in charge of an organization called Pratham “If political science is about cooking food, what is home science about?” that aims to improve the quality of education in India “This 100 rupee note was diligently stuck to an answer sheet” As part of its efforts, Pratham runs an annual survey, called the Annual Status of Education Report that is- ASER For their 2018 report, Pratham’s staff surveyed more than 5 Lakh school children from nearly 600 districts in rural India In these surveys,

Pratham asks students to undertake tasks to measure their reading and maths skills For example, for reading, students from Grade 1 to Grade 8 are asked to read this paragraph For maths, students are asked to perform such subtractions Unless you have actually spent a lot of time in schools in rural India, then Pratham’s findings would shock you They found that nearly 50% of Grade V students who were asked to read to Grade II’s text, failed to do the same Let me say that again- 50% of Grade V students could not read a Grade II text!

For maths, only 24.5% of Grade V students who were given the subtraction task were able to complete And this is very surprising because it’s not as if children are not going to school In fact, only 4.4% of kids don’t go to a school So that means that children are going to school, they are just not learning Now, some of you might think that such things happen only in government schools in rural India But that is not so The same problems persist in the schools in urban India And this will be clearer when we discuss about these problems that are responsible for this issue “What’s surprising is that topper Ruby is unaware that 12th class exams are of 500 marks – not 600.” Now problems with Indian schools education can be bucketed into two categories.

First, is the design of the education system itself i.e. how students are taught. Second, is governance i.e. how schools are run. We’ll talk about both these problems in this video Let us first start with the design of the education system This issue is well explained by two economists, Karthik Muralidharan and Abhijeet Singh Similar to Pratham, they also made students undergo a test to understand what is their level of learning Their results weren’t too different from what Pratham found. See this graph that shows the students’ math results On the x-axis is the grade of the student and on y-axis is which class should the student be in based on his or her test result They found that among 6th grade students, the scores of only two students showed that the learning levels belonged to the 6th class There were many, who actually should have been in 5th, 4th, and even the 1st grade Think about it yourself! Imagine a class of 6th standard- Where only two of students are able to understand what is being taught in the class While the learning level of other students is that of 5th, 4th, and even 1st grade!

According to the researchers, most of the students are below curricular standards with the average grade 6 student 2.5 years behind in maths! 2.5 years! So while the performance of Indian students should be this, it actually is this “The fear of the whip makes even the lion learn to sit in a chair But such a lion would be called well trained not well educated!” Now the main question- why is this happening? Kartik Muralidharan and Abhijit Singh say that an education system can serve two purposes First is to impart knowledge and skills. To do human development Second is to filter students for colleges and universities And you can guess what the Indian education system is meant for Indian education system acts as a chalni (sieve).

The system is designed to set a really high standard to produce children who can pass those standards and will perform well in competitive exams It basically means that this system benefits these students, at the cost of these students And to be honest, no one should be really surprised with this argument Our education system doesn’t focus on human or skill development. It is actually a one-size-fits-all system, in which are the students are pressurized to pass through the filter even if they haven’t learnt This pressure is what forces students and their families to take steps like bribing and cheating so that they can pass exams “… of those taking these exams, not hesitating to even climb school or college buildings to pass on chits to the examinees…” And such a system is not only present in schools but also in colleges and universities

This is why a lot of people graduate with degrees but do not possess the requisite skills Which is why, many surveys have shown that engineering graduates in India are not fit for engineering jobs in the private sector Now, it may not be possible to develop skills in the education system, But outside the education system, there are good resources that you can use to build your skills. This one building houses both the High school as well as the Middle school The High school has 65 pupils that are taught all the subjects by 2 teachers” Now let’s discuss the second problem i.e. how schools are run in our country. the story of Sangeeta Kashyap, who is a government teacher is very interesting In 1990, she was recruited as a biology teacher in Government Ahilya Ashram School in Indore But in 2014, she became famous.

Because she made a record for being absent for 23 years! While Sangeeta Kashyap may have made a record but there are many others like her A 2010 survey by Karthik Muralidharan and others found that In India, 23.6% of teachers had remained absent from schools which costed the Indian governments nearly 10,000 crore rupees every year Checking on teacher absenteesim was one reason why the Delhi government installed CCTVs in classrooms Some though argue that the teachers aren’t to be blamed for this absenteeism.

To an extent, the system is also responsible Analaysis by Azim Premji Foundation found that 18.5% of teachers were absent from their duty But out of those, only 2.5% of teachers were skipping their duty. While 9% were on-paid leave and 7% were on some official duty Teachers are basically spending a lot of time doing administrative tasks According to the Right to Education Act, teachers are supposed to teach 220 days in the year But a report found that in 2015, teachers only taught 42 days, spending nearly 81% of their time in non-teaching activities.

A government school teacher from Rajasthan’s Dholpur village in an interview, said “When officials visit the school, they check whether milk has been served and whether the midday meal has been prepared and served at the school. The emphasis is not on whether the Math or Hindi classes took place on the day or not” Due to these admin duties , some teachers even risked their own lives this year “More than 700 teachers lost their lives and the reason for this is not some kind of violence but it is the non adherence to COVID 19 protocols in the election process Recently, many teachers passed away due to COVID in UP, as they were forced to do election duty during the height of the pandemic So, to summarize the two problems:

The students are going to school- but they are not learning And whatever learning potential is left, also becomes challenging because teachers need to do administrative tasks So then what are the solutions? For the first problem, we need to design a system that customises learning for students. And thankfully, such innovations are taking place in India For example, Pratham designed a Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) program As a part of this program, Pratham organizes Learning Camps, , where students are taught not based on what grade they are in but rather based on their learning level And this program has proven to be effective in helping students learn, according to research Based on this, the government can also expand this approach in the country.

The government also recognizes this problem, to be honest That’s why it took the right decision of reversing the “no-fail” policy it had implemented. Earlier, according to this policy, students couldn’t be failed till Grade 8, which meant that even if students hadn’t learnt, they would be promoted, widening the learning gap between students The solution to the governance problem is quite obvious. The admin time of the students should be brought down to as little as possible This could involve using technology to reduce manual tasks of officials And could even mean hiring other officials to do admin tasks For instance, they need not hire teachers for poll duty.

We think that the India government is too bureaucratic. But surprisingly, that’s not because there are too many government employees In fact, India has too few government employees relative to other countries But rather it’s often because the processes here are extremely inefficient And if we resolve that, then atleast one problem of the Indian education system can be solved and we could be a step closer to designing an education system that our students deserve…

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