The problem of qualitative improvement
In the decade after passage of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, while the target of 100% enrollment in primary schools has been largely met, the problem of qualitative improvement in learning remains. Now, a new study released by NITI Aayog suggests changes to traditional strategies for improving the quality of school education by a multi-pronged approach.
(With text inputs from TNN)
Despite years of effort and projects on changing syllabuses, teacher training as well as student assessments, the situation has not improved due to structural flaws. “India today suffers from the twin challenges of unviable sub-scale schools and a severe shortage of teachers which makes in-school interventions only marginally fruitful,” says the study co-authored by Alok Kumar, adviser, NITI Aayog, and Seema Bansal, director, social impact, Boston Consulting Group.
India have more schools than China
Because of an emphasis on enrolment, India adopted the strategy of building schools near every habitation, resulting in a proliferation of schools with tiny populations and inadequate resources. “India has almost 3-4 times the number of schools (15 lakh) than China (nearly 5 lakh) despite a similar population. Nearly 4 lakh schools have less than 50 students each and a maximum of two teachers,” says the report. Around 1.5 crore students study in such unviable schools.
Shortage of teachers
Vacancies compound the problem. India has a shortage of more than 10 lakh teachers. The teachers that exist are inadequately distributed. “It’s not uncommon to find surplus teachers in an urban school while a single teacher may manage 100-plus students in a rural school. Some states have a shortage of more than 40%,” the report maintains.
The solution is moving teachers from surplus to deficit schools, restructuring complicated teacher cadres, and increased investment in teacher recruitment through better planning. Madhya Pradesh has undertaken an online teacher rationalisation process, moving nearly 10,000 teachers from surplus to deficit schools.
One of the solutions can be shift from syllabus completion to focusing on what competencies students have mastered. “Dedicated time should be carved out in the school day to bridge these gaps, and students should be taught based on their learning levels rather than grades.
Programmes based on this strategy are being implemented in Haryana, Jharkhand, MP and Odisha. These states have ensured teachers are provided guidance through scripted handbooks, and students are given workbooks for rigorous practice,” the report says.