Half of Class 6 students in Delhi govt schools can’t read at all
Nearly half of the over two lakh students in Class 6, the entry level at Delhi government-run schools, can’t read at all. Only a fourth of them can read from Hindi textbooks (considered relatively easier) or from a Class 2-level English book, showed a June study by the Delhi government.
The students were given an oral test to check learning levels. Only 13% were able to identify alphabets and a third solved a three-digit division sum.
The 2014 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) of students in the Nand Nagri municipal area showed similar results. The report is brought out by an NGO collective to generate evidence on the outcomes of social sector programmes.
Just over a half (59.4%) Class 6-8 students in Nand Nagri could read Class 2 texts and 43.6% could not read sentences, the ASER study said. As many as 2,393 Class 6-8 students and 3,167 Class 1-5 students were chosen for the survey.
The Delhi government schools get most of their students from the ones run by municipal corporations. The corporation schools run only till Class 5. The civic bodies have 1,860 schools across the city, nearly 700 more than the state government. A million students go to these schools.
The government blames the MCDs for poor learning levels but the corporations blame the government’s no detention policy (NDP) and lack of parental support for the poor academic standards of the students. The NDP was prescribed under Right To Education law, mandating promotion of every student till Class 8 irrespective of his/her performance in the annual exams.
Education activist Ambarish Rai said the NDP could not be held responsible for poor learning levels.
“It’s a myth,” said Rai, national convenor, Right To Education (RTE) Forum.
“The government should focus on strengthening the continuous comprehensive evaluation, which is a scientific method to improve learning. But because it adds to the work pressure on teachers and school staff, no one wants to follow it,” Rai said.
Government school teachers said staff shortage and non-teaching responsibilities leave them little time to focus on students. “They need to learn basics. But we cannot focus on them. We have staff shortage,” a government school teacher.
Yashpal Arya, chairman of the education committee of the South Delhi civic body, said they were trying to improve quality of education in MCD schools by training principals and fixing accountability.
“As per the RTE Act, we have to enrol students based on their age and not learning levels,” Arya said.
“We have to admit them even if they didn’t have any formal schooling. Therefore, they lag behind those who learn basics in Nursery or Class 1. We are trying to fix the problem by imparting special training to the teachers and principals so that they handle such students better,” Arya said.
How the problem can be solved
Experts say the school curriculum should be changed.
“There is a need to review the curriculum because there is a mismatch between syllabus and learning levels,” said Faiyaz Ahmed, associated with Pratham – an NGO that brings out ASER reports.
“We are not talking about the curriculum problem. There should be measurable learning outcomes for teachers and students to achieve,” said Ahmed.
A government school principal pointed out to the mismatch between learning levels and the curriculum.
“We admit MCD school students in Class 6. There is a significant difference in the learning levels and the curriculum we follow,” said the principal of a government school.
“Many of the MCD students cannot solve a simple sum or reach text,” the principal said.
Atishi Marlena, advisor to Delhi education minister Manish Sisodia, said the government was addressing the problem. She said low learning levels are common across the country but unlike other state governments, the AAP in Delhi is trying to find a solution.
“School syllabus and teaching practices have remained the same for the past 20 years,” Marlena said.
“Whenever the issue of syllabus revision was taken up, academicians opposed it saying government was trying to make the students dull,” she said.
Marlena said the Delhi government has launched Chunauti 2018, a programme in which students are divided into remedial groups. Special lectures are planned for them to bring up their learning levels.
Educationist Anita Rampal said the government should start at the primary level. She did not agree with the suggestion to scale down syllabus to suit students’ learning levels. “Students cannot be assessed on the stunted versions of textbooks,” Rampal said.
“The government is trying to dumb it down. No one says that the entire curriculum has to be taught. But teaching is about sequencing concepts in a larger context and not just giving information,” she said.