What’s Wrong With Our Teaching ?

(via) India Today issue dates Nov 27, 2006, has a cover story on Education. It is an exclusive survey of India’s top schools by Educational Initiatives exposes alarming gaps in student learning, with performance falling way below international levels. Below a letter from Sridhar Rajgopalan MD, Education Initiatives. If you want to know more about the survey and intiatives driven by EI contact Sridhar at sridhar@ei-india.com

Dear All,

Greetings and sorry to spam! Many of you know that our focus in Educational Initiatives (EI) is on bringing about significant improvement in the quality of student learning through research-based means with a special focus on assessment. We want to accurately measure how well children are learning so that this can meaningfully serve as feedback on how our education system is doing as a whole. We are also committed to doing concrete work on actually improving the quality of school education. About 50% of our effort is focused on private, English medium schools, and the balance on the mass government education system. (We are working with the World Bank with rural schools in Andhra Pradesh, with UNICEF in 13 states of India, and also with municipal schools of 30 towns of 5 states.)

At the heart of EI is its focus on “measuring true learning”, i.e., finding out how much children have really understood and can apply, from what they have studied in school. Our experience of assessing kids over the last 5 years through ASSET and our other tests has repeatedly shown us that children even in the BEST schools in India aren’t learning as much as they should. We have a completely false notion as a nation that our kids are learning well in school. The truth is that they may be learning textbook facts and procedures well, but that is about it.

We recently concluded a large scale study of 32,000 students from about 140 of India’s top schools in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata. We benchmarked performance against other countries using EXACTLY the same questions that were used in international tests and found that our best kids are doing poorer than the global averages… The study was part-funded by Wipro and partly by EI itself, and is the cover story of the latest India Today issue.

I would encourage you to read a copy of this issue – it actually carries some of the questions asked and the responses received, and in balance, is quite well written. We will try and get a few complimentary copies and mail them out but would request you to read a copy if you get one and send us comments and feedback. It is relevant to each one of us in a direct personal sense as much as in the greater national sense of where our education system is headed.

The entire study is not covered in the India Today story – for the full report, executive summary, complete question papers and a detailed question-wise analysis, please refer to this link on our website. The full 70-page PDF report (a 2.8 MB file) is also available there. An interesting feature of the study is that we have decided to release ALL the data in the study in the public domain!

Our purpose of doing this study, indeed all our studies, is to trigger a debate on the real status of teaching and learning in our country, and then play a part in a larger movement for change. We are very keen that the study not be used to simply blame teachers and schools (simply because teachers and schools alone are not to blame!) Rather, it is important for all of us to understand that there is a problem; each of us in some way probably contributes to it; and it is only by working together (and not by trying to fix blame) that we can find a solution. We are confident that this is possible and will continue to work towards this goal. We look forward to your thoughts, reactions and support.


Sridhar Rajagopalan
Managing Director
Educational Initiatives

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