Will the National Achievement Survey improve lives of school kids?
A million of India’s teachers are untrained and less than 1 in 10 schools in India comply with the entirety of the already minimal national norms under the Right to Education or RTE Acteducation Updated: Nov 14, 2017 11:05 IST
As we celebrate Children’s Day today, on November 14, we should have hopes for the positive outcome of a one-of-its-kind National Achievement Survey (NAS) undertaken recently in India.
Covering nearly three million children from all districts of India, NAS was conducted on a single day, November 13, in all sampled schools of the country.
This exercise drew significant attention from the government, partly since it will indirectly affect the quantum of budget allocation for education to the states. The overwhelming emphasis that it received feeds the perception that testing achievement of children, through a large-scale survey, can solve the learning crisis faced by the country and that learning levels will improve without actual investment in quality learning environment in schools.
Of course, schools must be accountable for ensuring that children – from all social and economic backgrounds and locations across the country - acquire necessary competencies and skills and also become good human beings. To ensure this, a school requires infrastructure, support system and environment as per the national norms and as per the needs to children who attend it regularly.
The teachers also need to be appropriately trained, motivated and supported.
In contrast, a million of India’s teachers are untrained and less than 1 in 10 schools in India comply with the entirety of the already minimal national norms under the Right to Education or RTE Act. Dalit and Adivasi learners, especially girls, are marginalised in schools and classrooms.
The NAS, which covered an estimated three million children from all districts of India, will identify areas of strength and weakness, with some states likely to do better than others.
It is unclear whether it will address the core challenges faced by children in our diverse country.
The question we need to ask is – are we adequately creating an engaging and learning environment at school level, with professionally trained and motivated teachers, safe and secure school, proper emotional and physical environment, access to contextual and grade-appropriate reading books and materials, a classroom with dedicated learning time and conditions and engaged parents and community?
A motivated teacher can change the lives of children, providing them opportunities, care and warmth, particularly for girls from first-generation learner families. Training adequate numbers of motivated and professionally trained teachers who can act as role models and friends to these children is critical, as is access to a safe and secure environment to provide care and warmth to children, particularly girls. Government schools only too often consist of insensitive teachers, poorly constructed rooms, unclean playgrounds and dysfunctional toilets. Provision of learning materials, stationery and a well-equipped, welcoming library bind children to the learning processes.
An assessment of learning environment on these parameters will set the context to help identify and address the actual reasons behind low learning levels among our children.
The author is team leader, girls education programme, CARE India.