Learning levels in Madhya Pradesh government schools have shown a continuous decline over the past five years, according to the latest Annual Status of Education Report (ASER-rural) from a non-government organisation, Pratham.
Believe it or not, in 2014 only three out of 10 Class 4 students could read Class 1 lessons.
However, it was a little respectable in 2010 when about seven out of 10 students could read these lessons, the report says, showing a sharp decline in the learning skills. But, what’s the reason behind it?
The state government is quick to blame the policy of ‘no detention’ till Class 8 under the right to education (RTE) for the quality lag.
The no detention clause states that till Class 8, no child can be held back or expelled from the school.
This, teachers resent, is the main reason behind the decline in the learning levels among students as they think ‘why study when there is no fear of failing.’
However, experts don’t buy the government’s standpoint. They feel that it is the misinterpretation of the policy that has caused more problems than the policy itself.
In fact, the teachers should have carried out a continuous evaluation of the students to test their learning levels under the policy.
But, it hasn’t been done as expected, they say.
The ASER-2014 data shared by the MP office of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) during a recently held workshop in Pachmarhi, further shows that in 2014, only 64.9% Class 2 students could identify numbers 1 to 10 as against 91.8% students in year 2010.
Moreover only 10% Class 5 students were able to do arithmetic divisions in 2014 compared to 38% in 2010.
Similar learning issues exist among the students of other elementary classes (1 to 8).
Minister of state for school education Deepak Joshi told HT that the state government was aware of the problem of quality learning at the elementary level of education and was in favour of the reintroduction of annual examinations in the schools.
“We also want to reintroduce the Class 5 and Class 8 board examinations, which we feel will help in quality checking of the students,” he said.
The requests in this regard would be made to the union government, he said.
However, experts hold a different opinion. Nirmala Buch of the Child Rights Observatory of MP says that poor learning levels of the students in the recent past are evident in the form of higher dropouts at Class 9 level, especially among girls.
“However, the issue is not about detention. The government schools seem to have forgotten that they are supposed to undertake a continuous evaluation of the students to ensure that they were learning their lessons. If that is ensured and the remedial steps are taken, the quality of learning will never be a problem,” she says.
Educationist Zamiruddin says that an effective teaching and learning atmosphere is the pre-requisite for imparting quality education and the examination system for detention is not a solution.
“The semester system and continuous evaluation are the best way to assess the learning levels of students,” he says, adding that the quality of teachers and dedicated teaching assignments for them are equally important.
Unicef education specialist FA Jami says the absence of a reliable student learning data from government sources masks the quality related discourse in education. As a result children move to higher classes without learning and then drop out.
“However, the traditional examination system that tests rote learning is not the solution. Robust competency-based assessment system should be developed and such a data should be used to plan for quality interventions. We stand with the state in this endeavour,” he says.