Monday, September 12, 2011

An agenda to improve learning outcomes in schools

I have an op-ed in today's Mint that advocates a strong push to improve learning outcomes in our schools.


H A K Bhaskar said...

Learning outcomes? This is not only by oneclick access sir i think, There should regular inspectional parameters for knowing outcomes.,

Jayan said...

..No intervention, especially on improving quality, can succeed without vibrant demand-side vigilance. Active school management committees...

If you see the profile of people who send kids to govt school in Hyderabad/AP, you will see this is one of the difficult step. They do not have time / information on how to demand better education.

H A K Bhaskar said...

Certainly jayan I have seen that there should be a revolution towards empowering the knowledge of students from Govt. School's students., with providing high class education from Government., The problem of school management is they even don't know technical education w.r.t. environment.Isn't it?

KP said...

Dear Gulzar,

This is possibly the toughest topic to have a view on - that can produce a reasonably satisfactory solution.

The broadest problem is one of education without sufficient social capital - and a few exceptions cannot be the rule - for example the "dalit successes" are only an, exception ( a good positive exception)- but clearly - masks the problems of the average outcome.

The aim of public schooling cannot be to produce an underclass - while that definitely is not the aim - the quality of the schools facilities is a dampener. While infrastructure without attention to the human element( teachers) will not produce results - good infrastructure is vital.

Teacher evaluation by students is one of huge asymmetry - and is the toughest proposition - except where we can cleary identify a bad teacher.

Teacher motivation is even harder - a blanket increase in salaries is of no real consequence - and a selective incentivization program is difficult to design.

The better institutions - the prime campuses and schools - particularly those that have a selective or test based entrance - mask a huge deteriorating quality - where the output survives through branding and social capital - rather than the capability of the output to produce good engineering / social science or arts.

Again the better breakthroughs in many areas are disproportionately from the less glorified colleges and schools.

Education has been oversold - in India - its output is largely social mobility - rather than the quality of the product ( or the output of its products). In many cases the exceptional input of students uses the system only as a platform - a signalling equivalent, rather than as a substantial source of knowledge.

That said, I have to agree - the only way to go is to improve education - in the process I hope we also improve access / delivery / research - into all things Indian - finally our contribution to the world needs an underpinning and pride in Indianness without which we are ony fodder for a global supply chain - dollar salaries may make us happy - but when the accent wears off we need something to make us proud - to be uniquely Indian.


sai prasad said...

All the steps mentioned are relevant and important.

The questions are what and how do we test. Testing needs to assess learning outcomes. I think it is more than math and needs to go into social skills and ideal citizen qualities.

How do we carry out the testing ? Test design. Difficult issues but certainly needed.

gulzar said...

thanks for all the comments.

bhaskar, i agree that the already on things like regular inspections should continue.

jayan, my belief is that if we provide them customized and meaningful information (not in a routine report card, but in a slightly cognitively salient manner) specific to their child, then we can generate some interest in parents.

KP, i agree that even the better schools standout more because of their sudents and the process of selection than because of their inherent learning outcome quality.

sai sir, we are implementing all of these elements in some form or the other (not necessarily in the most optimal or desirable method) in Hyd. Testing is the centerpiece of this effort. the difficulty is with maintaining the rigour of testing consistently over many years (distortions start to keep in and then tests become gigo!).

Raj said...

Hi Gulzar,
Your post had thrown light on some of the important topics that we had to focus. But after going through the content and comments I found that most of us are missing one of the key ingredient that is really required to suppress the problem.

Most of us know that for the disappointing results from the Education systems that are only run by Government are because the teachers including the Head Masters are having very meagre or no training to update them selves with latest methods in teaching (like using digital content as supplementary or asking the students to do some simple projects related to understanding the minute problems of society, identifying the performance wise poor students to give better push etc.)
If we observe carefully the main supporting factor for the students studying in the private institutions to outperform most of the students in Government institutions (at all levels except in Top technological or Business schools) is that these private institutions update their curriculum every year with new ideas (though the syllabus is same but the method gets update rather than simple change).
This has on one had improves the knowledge of the teacher and even Headmaster's as well, as he has to study the latest advancements in the stream of education. On the other hand the new methods also have more emphasis on the low performing student groups.
Instead of increasing the funds for education sector every year, if the Government takes initiation to strengthen the knowledge of the existing system it will definitely yield better results.
As we all know that its the only Educational institutions under government which have more than two month summer holidays than any other job in the world. So why can't we use the same period to (compulsory) update the skill set of teachers so that their motivation level will always remains high and I feel it will definitely yields better results.