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Madhya Pradesh witnesses an alarming drop in Reading skills in Students, ranks among India’s lowest

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Girl child studying in an open school in Wikimedia

Delhi, Jan 10, 2017:  Reading and some math skills of Madhya Pradesh students are among India’s lowest, the transition rate to higher classes is lower than the national average. A majority of classrooms are shared by students of different grades, and government elementary schools are 17.6 per cent short of school teachers, according an analysis of various government data.

The literacy rate in Madhya Pradesh at 72.6 million, the fifth-largest state by population — was ninth lowest, at 70.6 per cent, in 2011. This was an increase of 6.86 percentage points from 2001 –the second-lowest increase among BIMARU states.

Learning levels in rural Madhya Pradesh are among India’s worst. Only 34 per cent of all children surveyed in Grade 5 in rural areas could read a Grade 2 level text, the second-lowest across all states — behind only Assam — according to the 2014 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), and the proportion of Grade 5 children who could at least subtract was 31 per cent, the lowest in India.

The proportion of children in Grade 3 who could read at least words declined from 80 per cent in 2010 to 32 per cent in 2014 in government schools; the corresponding decline in private schools was from 88 per cent in 2010 to 74 per cent in 2014.

The transition rate from primary (Grade 5) to upper primary (Grade 6) in Madhya Pradesh was 88.67 per cent in 2014-15, according to the Unified District Information System (U-DISE) Flash Statistics 2015-16 — below the all-India average of 90 per cent.

At the upper primary level, learning levels are worse. Only 18 per cent of Grade 7 students could read English sentences — the lowest in the country. Of those who could read, only 43 per cent could tell the meaning of the sentence — again the lowest, indicating that even students who transition to upper primary perform poorly in comparison with students in other states.

Of six million teaching positions in government schools nationwide, about 900,000 elementary school teaching positions and 100,000 in secondary school — put together, a million — are vacant, according to an answer given in the Lok Sabha. About 17.6 per cent of all elementary teaching positions — nearly 64,000 — in government schools in Madhya Pradesh are vacant.

As many as 78 per cent schools surveyed had children from Grade 2 sharing a classroom with other grades, an increase from 67 per cent in 2010, according to the ASER 2014 report.

Similarly, the proportion of schools where Grade 4 children shared a classroom with other grades increased from 57 per cent in 2010 to 69 per cent in 2014.

As several grades study in one classroom with the same teacher or teachers, more training, and different kinds of pedagogy, would have to be used to reach every child, according to an ASER 2011 report. The Right to Education (RTE) Act does not specify any regulations for multi-grade classrooms, and it is possible that schools provide few teachers with special training to equip them to teach in multi-grade classrooms.

Overall, few teachers receive in-service training. No more than 7.13 per cent of the state’s teachers (including contractual teachers) got in-service training in 2013-14; the Indian average was 18.34 per cent, according to U-DISE data.

Public expenditure on elementary education (Grade 1 to Grade 8) per student increased by 50 per cent between 2011-12 and 2014-15, but this increase was mainly due to the decline in enrolment than any increase in real expenditure, the Economic and Political Weekly reported in September 2016.

The enrolment at primary level (Grade 1 to 5) declined from 10.7 million in 2010-11 to 8.67 million in 2014-15, a decline of 18.97 per cent, according to U-DISE data, mostly because fewer children enrol in primary school at the wrong age — raising the per student spending in the state.

The primary school Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) — which is the proportion of students enrolled to the proportion of primary-school age children — was 136.7 in 2010-11, which fell to 101.11 at primary level in 2014-15, according to U-DISE data. The GER can be greater than 100 if children not of primary-school age enrol in primary school.

For upper primary school, gross enrolment has fallen below 100 per cent; that is, not all students of upper-primary school-age enrol in school. The gross upper primary school enrolment dropped from 102.1 in 2010-11 to 96.6 in 2014-2015, according to U-DISE data.

As many as 70 per cent of RTE quota seats were not filled in Madhya Pradesh. The RTE Act (2009) requires that one quarter of all seats be reserved for free schooling to the poorest students in all private, unaided primary schools.

Only 170,000 students were admitted on the RTE quota in 2016, although more than 420,000 seats were reserved. The shortfall is attributed, in part, to an online lottery system that parents found hard to use.

Delhi and Maharashtra also adopted a similar centralised online allotment of seats in private schools, according to one report. The report states that “although going online with the admission process appears to be a good move to improve transparency and efficiency… not all parents would be able to apply online for admissions, especially the ones coming from the lower strata of the society”.

Madhya Pradesh also revoked the “no-detention policy” in October 2016, allowing all government and private schools to hold back students in the same grade after Grade 5, due to the state’s declining quality of education, according to Deepak Joshi, Minister of State for School Education. Earlier, students would not repeat grades until Grade 8, except in schools affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education.  (IANS)

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The Unconventional Way of Learning: Textbooks Come Alive in Gujarat’s Schools

Outdated teaching methods, lack of interest among students and teachers, and gender discrimination were some of the common problems.

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Outdated teaching methods, lack of interest among students and teachers, and gender discrimination were some of the common problems. Pixabay

 In a small school near Bhuj in Gujarat, a group of class five students sit attentively in class, their eyes glued to an LCD screen. The opened science books on their laps have come alive on the screen before them, as an animated character explains the nuances of the chapter in their native language, Gujarati. Efficient learning, experts say, happens when students enjoy the experience, and in hundreds of schools across Gujarat, digitised school textbooks are opening up children’s minds like never before.

Learning Delight, the hand that is turning the wheel of change in 10,000 government schools, mostly in rural and semi-urban areas across the state, has been digitising the state curriculum since 2011, and has the approval of the Gujarat Council of Educational Research and Training (GCERT). The idea is simple: use technology to aid classroom teaching to make the learning process more engaging, more efficient – and definitely more fun.

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This led the two to use technology and design, an e-learning tool that would aid classroom teaching.. Pixabay

So much so, that in a survey done in 350 schools where they have a presence, Parinita Gohil, co-founder of Learning Delight, said, “The dropout rate among children studying between Class 1 and Class 8 has come down by 6-7 per cent in the past five years.”

It all started a decade back when two friends, Harshal Gohil and Vandan Kamdar, who were doing their MBA, realised that there was a huge gap in education between schools in different settings. Outdated teaching methods, lack of interest among students and teachers, and gender discrimination were some of the common problems. This led the two to use technology and design, an e-learning tool that would aid classroom teaching.

“Harshal and Vandan began with a survey in five schools. Here they found that although there was no dearth in infrastructure – the schools had computers – there was scepticism about using them,” Parinita Gohil, who is married to Harshal Gohil, told IANS. The resistance mainly arose because “most teachers were not comfortable with the English language, were scared of using the computer, and apprehensive if the computers would replace their role”.

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There has, however, been an exception in this digitisation process – the language textbooks, be it English, Hindi, or Gujarati, have been left out. Pixabay

Therefore, the offline computer software that they developed was designed in such a way that a teacher’s presence was necessary in the class. The medium of instruction was Gujarati. “So be it any subject – science, math, social studies – the content was digitised in a way that through animation, riddles, puzzles, and stories textbook learning is made more interactive and fun,” Parinita Gohil said. The experts who designed the digitised content also had teachers on board.

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There has, however, been an exception in this digitisation process – the language textbooks, be it English, Hindi, or Gujarati, have been left out. “We don’t want children to leave reading their books. So, while we have digitised the grammar lessons, language textbooks have been left as they are,” she said.

Next in the pipeline is a mobile phone app being developed with a similar software and a foray into Rajasthan, for which software has been developed in Hindi and in tandem with the Rajasthan state education board. (IANS)