06 November, 2011

ASER Centre launches Inside Primary Schools: A Study Of Teaching And Learning in Rural India :: curtesy:

ASER Centre, in collaboration with UNICEF and UNESCO,  launched the report of a study on teaching and learning in rural India. This study followed about  30,000 children in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan during  15 months to see how much they learn and what most affects their learning. The study looked  at school organization, teacher background, teacher capability for teaching, classroom  processes and learning outcomes. Research teams also visited homes of the children to  understand how families’ social, economic, and educational characteristics relate to children’s  learning. This study can provide significant inputs as states gear up to implement the Right of  Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act.

Key findings:
• Attendance is the one of the most important factors in children’s learning. Not only do  children need to be enrolled in school but they need to attend regularly in order to learn  well.

• Children’s learning outcomes do improve during the course of a year, but even in states with the best learning outcomes, children’s learning levels are far behind what is expected  of them. If textbooks are used as the reference point, then in all five states that were  studied, most children are at least two grades below the required level of proficiency in  both language and math.
• Neither higher educational qualifications nor more teacher training are associated with  better student learning. Nor are teacher background characteristics such as age, gender, or  experience major influences on student learning. What does matter is teachers’ ability to  teach, for example:
§ Mastery of content knowledge.
§ Ability to spot common mistakes in their students’ work.
§ Ability to explain in simple language or in easy steps to communicate education content  to young children.
§ Ability to create questions or activities for children.
• Child-friendly classrooms improve children’s learning. But 850 hours of classroom  observations demonstrate that most primary school classrooms are not child friendly at all.
§ Students ask teachers questions in about a quarter of all classrooms.
§ Students’ work is displayed in about a quarter of all classrooms.
§ Teachers smile or laugh with students in about one fifth of all classrooms.
§ Teachers use local information to make content relevant to children in about one fifth of  all classrooms.
§ Teachers use some kind of teaching and learning material other than the textbook in  less than 1 out of every 10 classrooms.
• The composition of students in an average primary school class is complicated. Most  classrooms had fewer than 30 students present in all. But in about three quarters of  classrooms, these students comprised children from two or three grades sitting together.  This multi-grade problem is further complicated by the fact that within a single grade,  children are very different from one another. For example:
§ Children vary considerably by age: While about 7 out of every 10 students are at the age  appropriate grade, 3 out of 10 are either younger or older.
§ Children have different learning levels: While some children are comfortably able to  deal with grade level subjects and skills, the majority are far below grade level  expectations in language and math.
• Use of library books improves children’s learning. More than 6 out of every 10 students  come from households where no adult woman has ever been to school. And more than half  of all students have no print materials available at home. Thus children do not have  materials to read at home. Although schools often have libraries, children were observed  using library books in less than a quarter of all schools.
• Children whose home language is different than the school language of instruction learn less  and attend school less often. One out of every ten sampled students comes from a family  whose home language is different from the school’s medium of instruction.  Implications of these findings, especially for implementation of the RTE Act:
ü Systems must be put in place to track attendance, not just enrollment, and ensure  regular reporting and monitoring of attendance.
ü Textbooks need urgent revisions. They need to start from what children can do and be  more realistic and age appropriate in what children are expected to learn, with clear  learning goals. This is especially important in light of the RTE objective of age-grade  mainstreaming for all children.
ü Teacher recruitment and training policies need to assess teachers’ knowledge, but more  importantly their ability to explain content to children, make information relevant to their  lives and to use teaching learning materials and activities other than the textbook.
ü As per the Right to Education Act, indicators for child-friendly education need to be defined  and measured regularly as a part of the markers of quality education.
ü Libraries, with take home books for reading practice at home, should be monitored as part  of Right to Education Act indicators. Family reading programmes could also be part of  innovations to help support first generation school goers.
ü Mother tongue instruction and programmes for language transition need to be introduced  and expanded.

ASER Centre released ‘Inside Primary Schools: A study of teaching and learning in rural India’ in New Delhi on October 28, 2011.  Read the Policy BriefPress Release, the full report,

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