INDIA: When there is no dearth of schools, students, teachers or infrastructure in the country, when numbers show increasing enrollments, why is it that Indian students lack skills even after graduation? The problem is a combination of factors— quality of teachers, actual teaching time, student- teacher ratio, method of testing and lack of political will to correct the system, said Vimala Ramachandran, national fellow and professor at National University for Educational Planning and Administration, Delhi.
After Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan was introduced in 2003, huge money was spent to train teachers, but it was all a sham, said Ramachandran, delivering the fifth Jacob Kuruvila memorial lecture on 'Promoting excellence in school education' in the city on Sunday. She said 90% of this was wasteful expenditure. It is an open secret that the National Council for Teacher Education made a lot of money by giving licences to private teacher training institutions.
"Every school and every teacher should be held accountable for a child's learning. This will make teaching innovative and active," said Ramachandran, delivering the fifth memorial lecture of the on Sunday. The initiative was launched in 2004 in memory of Jacob Kuruvila who was the headmaster of Madras Christian College High School between 1931 and 1962. The initiative is managed by his old students who work with schools and teachers to adopt innovative teaching methods.
"Something drastic has to be done at the primary level of education and for that we need political will," said Ramachandra. India has more than 200 million children in the elementary school age, according to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER). "Even if half of them are not learning at a basic level, it is a crisis of mammoth proportion. Close to 52% drop out before Class 9 because they can't cope," she said.
Underscoring the need to decentralise the system by giving teachers and schools more freedom, she said they will have to reach a desired level by Class 8 mastering language, basic math and science before making their syllabus common. This is how Poland turned their education system around from 1999 after having followed a failed Soviet system. "Teachers will then innovate on their method of teaching. Right now we just measure how much syllabus is covered but not how much the child has learned," she said.