Education in India: Miles to Go!

Two events that happened one after the other have put the spotlight on our education system. What ails it? Where are we now? Quo Vadis???

On 15th January, the global rankings of the 73 countries that participated in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) conducted Programme for International Assessment (PISA) was released. PISA is annual exam administered to 15-year olds to evaluate educational systems worldwide in Reading, Math and Science. The penultimate position, i.e. 72nd was that of India only overcoming Kyrgyzstan! Second from last!!!

China’s Shanghai province, which participated in PISA for the first time, scored the highest in reading. It also topped the charts in mathematics and science.”More than one-quarter of Shanghai’s 15 year olds demonstrated advanced mathematical thinking skills to solve complex problems, compared to an OECD average of just 3%,” noted the analysis.

On 16th January the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2011 was released. The seventh ASER of rural India by the NGO Pratham nearly validates what the PISA analysis has revealed. Reading and Math skills amongst 6-14 year olds are on the wane. Academic levels have declined. Enrolment in schools has increased but attendance is deficient. While enrolment has increased in private schools, there is great deal of dependence on private tuitions. Considering that 70% of India’s population lives in its rural regions the report needs to be closely looked into to stem the rot. Even before we do that we need to understand what ails our educational system.

At this juncture I am reminded of the findings of yet another study done in urban schools by Education Initiatives and Wipro. Called the Quality Education Study (QES), it covered over 23000 students, 790 teachers, 54 Principals and 83 ‘top’ schools across Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai were part of this survey. This one too, which was released late in 2011, revealed disconcerting facts. All these children came from educated and affluent families, and the schools they went to had all facilities and were technologically savvy. Yet these children showed signs of rote learning. They lacked critical thinking skills, higher order thinking skills, creativity and hardly responded about current social, cultural, civic and ecological issues. So things are not fine at the urban level too.

All this made me look into the Finnish model of education which has come for immense praise globally. I will write about that in my next post.