To improve learning outcomes in schools, Odisha plans to grade them
Concerned about the poor academic level of students in its primary and upper primary schools, Odisha government is going to grade about 60,000 of its primary schools into three categories to raise learning outcomes and identify the performing schools.
The State’s department of school and mass education has sent a concept note to its district and block education officers detailing the procedure of benchmarking of primary (Classes 2-8) schools into Gold, Silver and Bronze categories under a programme called Garima or school certification programme. The certification to start from the current academic session will be done three times every year on the basis of a centrally-prepared assessment and once schools are graded they will be given suitable rewards and incentives. Even the blocks and the districts will get rewards once a certain percentage of schools in their jurisdiction achieve certain grades.
“We will start this programme in August to create a healthy competition among schools and identify good schools who feel that their work is not recognised and they are being treated at the same level as bad schools. The schools can apply and then we would test the students following which certificates will be issued. By February next year, OSEPA expects around 15000 schools would have got bronze, silver and gold certificates. The key objectives of the programme are to identify good performing schools on the basis of academic performance, to encourage schools to help students to accomplish grade-level learning outcomes and bring back the faith of people in education in government schools,” said Bhupendra Singh Poonia, state project director of Odisha School Education Programme Authority.
Odisha school and mass education department manages over 60000 schools in the State and is responsible for the education of about 65 lakh students. The literacy rate of Odisha as per 2011 census was 72.9 per cent, but the National Achievement Survey(NAS) conducted by National Council of Education Research and Training in 2018 found that only 53 per cent students in Odisha were able to answer questions on basic competencies correctly.
As per NAS 2018 conducted across 248 schools in 12 districts of the State, the percentage of students of class 3 of Odisha who could listen, recognise words and read with comprehension was lower than the national average. Students performed lower than the national average in almost all mathematical abilities, except place value. Odisha’s performance was worse than neighbouring States of Jharkhand and West Bengal. Similarly, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) (Rural) 2018 revealed that only 33.1 % students of class V could recognise numbers between 10 and 99 while 24.5% students could do subtraction.
Officials in the school and mass education department said individual schools will have to first nominate themselves for bronze certificates first as application for silver and gold directly is not allowed. On attainment of one level of certification, schools will have to wait for next cycle before they can apply for next level of certification. But to be eligible for the tests, each school should have marked at least 70 per cent attendance of its students and teachers in the previous 30 days. The school students between the class of 2 and 8 would then be assessed in subjects like Mathematics/Odia/English where their ability to differentiate the smaller number between two digit numbers, addition and subtraction and read sentences and small paragraphs assessed. For upper primary level, the students will have to write a three digit number on blackboard that the assessor asks and also its place value. The students will be given simple paragraph from any book or newspaper and be asked to read them correctly. For bronze certificates, at least 80 per cent of the students in each of the classes need to secure more than 60 per cent marks.
“Only when schools get bronze certificate can only they nominate themselves for the silver certification and then the students would have to go through similar tests. The level of difficulty would increase with each level of certification,” said an official. Once more than 70 per cent schools in a particular block or district get bronze certificate then that particular block or district would be eligible for bronze certification.
For Bronze level certification, schools will get three stars and would be felicitated at district level. Silver-certified schools will get four stars and get grants of Rs 20000 while the blocks would get Rs 50000 special grant to the block office. For Gold certificate, schools will get five stars and Rs 50000 award money. The block office will get special grant of Rs 1 lakh.
Poonia said as the next NAS was scheduled next year, the Garima certification would give a push to learning-level outcomes in the schools. “Currently, Odisha is ranked 23rd and there is lot of scope for improvement,” he said.
Educationists said programmes like Garima can only be fruitful if critical issues like human resources in schools are dealt with seriously. “As it is there are huge vacancies of teachers in schools and then there are different categories of teachers doing the same work but getting different pay. Those teachers who are on contract get less salary and do not have a sense of belonging with the school. Besides, the teachers are kept busy in non-academic works like looking after mid day meal and such other duties. Such works eat into their academic time. The government should look into these issues first or else programme like school certification would remain a slogan,” said noted educationist Dr Pritish Acharya.