02 February, 2017  Media: Newspaper |  Publication: Hindu |  Edition: Delhi |  Page: 8

Govt to assess learning outcomes in schools

By Vikas Pathak

"The Centre is set to devise a method to measure learning outcomes of children at the school level, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in his budget speech on Wednesday. “We have proposed to introduce a system of measuring annual learning outcomes in our schools. Emphasis will be given on science education and flexibility in the curriculum to promote creativity through local innovative content,” Mr. Jaitley said. For secondary education, he promised an innovation fund to encourage local innovation in backward blocks of the country. “An Innovation Fund for Secondary Education will be created to encourage local innovation for ensuring universal access, gender parity, and quality improvement. This will include ICT-enabled learning transformation. The focus will be on the 3,479 educationally backward blocks,” the Finance Minister added."

NEW DELHI: The Centre is set to devise a method to measure learning outcomes of children at the school level, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in his budget speech on Wednesday. “We have proposed to introduce a system of measuring annual learning outcomes in our schools. Emphasis will be given on science education and flexibility in the curriculum to promote creativity through local innovative content,” Mr. Jaitley said.

Innovation fund

For secondary education, he promised an innovation fund to encourage local innovation in backward blocks of the country. “An Innovation Fund for Secondary Education will be created to encourage local innovation for ensuring universal access, gender parity, and quality improvement. This will include ICT-enabled learning transformation. The focus will be on the 3,479 educationally backward blocks,” the Finance Minister said. “The government’s thrust for improving over-all quality of education is reflected in the budget. Learning outcomes and teacher educational reforms are important steps which we have already decided,” Minister of Human Resource Development Prakash Javadekar said later in the day. Experts, however, have taken the proposals with a pinch of salt. “Measuring learning outcomes is a focus on the ends, not the means.

There have been no jumps in allocations on education. Expenditures are just maintained,” Saumen Chattopadhyay, an expert on education teaching at the Zakir Husain Centre for Educational Studies at JNU told The Hindu. He added that it was difficult to understand what innovation meant in the context of secondary education. The expenditure budget shows a 10% jump in educational allocation over the budget estimates of last year. As against the ₹72,394 crore allocated for education in last year’s budget estimates, the corresponding amount for the financial year 2017-18 is ₹79,686-crore. Of this ₹46,356 crore is for the department of school education and literacy, and Rs 33,329.7 crore for the department of higher education. Arvind Mishra, who teaches at JNU and specialises in school education, said the quality of education could improve if hindrances posed by home environment were removed.

First generation learners

“Many of these students are first generation learners. There is a lot of difference between home culture and school culture in their case. For students from poor backgrounds, food and medicine requirements at home become more important than education. Residential schools like the Navodaya Vidyalayas are one way to improve learning levels,” he said. Pratham's recent Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) for rural India documented the deficit in learning levels among school children. The proportion of Class 8 students who could solve a three-digit by one-digit division problem was 43.3% in 2016 and that of class3 students who could perform a two-digit subtraction 27.7%. Among Class-3 students, 32% could read simple English words. The proportion of Class-8 students who could read simple English sentences was just 45.2%.