Improving the Primary School Education System

It would be most useful if teachers themselves can regularly assess their own students and identify which students require additional support on specific topics
Improving the Primary School Education System
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Governments and educators across the world have designed and put to use several tools and processes for monitoring and reporting learning outcomes and the performance of education systems in order to provide reliable and valid response to the above mentioned questions and to make informed choices related to improving education system that enhance student learning. Large scale Assessment in education is one such tool that obtains information for the purposes of assessing the overall health of education system and if the students meet curricular standards, the findings could potentially lead to systemic reforms.

 Around the world there is growing interest since the mid-1980s to use Largescale Assessments for measuring, comparing and monitoring educational standards. Many countries now take part in international surveys of learner achievement such as Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Studies (TIMSS) in order to get an objective measure students' level of achievement in the country in comparison to those of other nations. In addition, many countries now conduct their own achievement surveys in order to judge educational standards against national expectations. Since the year 2001 India has been implementing a rolling programme of sample based National Achievement Survey (NAS) aimed at Classes III, V and VIII under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). This summary report summarises the findings of the National Achievement Survey Class V Cycle 4 that was conducted in 2014.

Analysis of the National Achievement Survey Class V Cycle 4 data brings to fore several crucial issues that need immediate attention from stakeholders in the education system. Efforts need to be made by all stakeholders in their respective areas to promote quality delivery by the education system to ensure learning. Teachers need to work with students to develop their competence in reading at various levels. Most of the language assessment in our country is textbook based and only tests recall of information from the seen texts. As a result, students find it difficult to tackle questions based on unseen texts. Presenting students with different forms of unseen texts and asking them to read, understand and answer the given questions often during an academic session would improve their reading and comprehension skills. 

Students are lagging behind in some specific areas of Mathematics. Teachers need to identify whether it is due to lack of conceptual understanding or due to lack of practice and guidance on routine mistakes committed by students. Based on the findings, there could be re-teaching of the concepts and drilling through practice for reinforcement of the concepts and mitigating chances of routine mistakes by students. Organising activities around developing conceptual understanding might also be helpful in addressing the problems being faced by students. Lack of conceptual clarity and understanding has been found in most of the themes tested under EVS. Further probing is required to develop appropriate strategy for making students understand the difficult concepts. The findings of the study need to be included in teachers training (pre and in service) programmes to improve pedagogical aspects related to facilitating reading, mathematics and environmental studies. This would also enable the teachers to use innovative methodology for motivating students during the teaching–learning process

Way Forward

This summary report based on unweighted data highlights the performance of Class V students across the country in National Achievement Survey Cycle 4. There is a possibility that the findings might change by one or two score points once weighted data is used for the final analysis. Nevertheless the findings provide a number of insights for all stakeholders–policy planners, curriculum developers, trainers and educators–to bring about change in the current education system. 

Any assessment, including Large Scale Assessment like the NAS, does not bring about change to improve quality, unless the system is ready to reflect on the findings and use that for improving systems and processes. The results of Class V NAS reveal that the average score of pupils in Reading Comprehension, Mathematics and Environmental Studies are below the scale score average in most cases. There is, thus, a need to carefully understand the findings and have consultations to devise appropriate strategy to address the same. This understanding could then be used to redesign interventions such as teacher training, curriculum and textbook design and on-site teacher support, so as to improve students' learning. This also has implications for performance of schools, their monitoring and the roles and responsibilities of teacher/school/ support institutions like CRCs/BRCs/ DIETs/SCERTs. 

It is also critical to disseminate the NAS findings in an easily understandable manner and to discuss them with all relevant stakeholders, especially teachers, teacher support institutions and educational functionaries, to build their capacity to understand and reflect on the findings and take appropriate action thereafter. The purpose of such large scale assessments will only be fulfilled when the findings get translated into action within the classroom and result in improvement in students' learning. There are various things that teachers can do at their level, in light of the findings of the NAS study. In Language, teachers could provide more opportunities during the teaching-learning process for students to both read and listen to a wide variety of reading materials. Students should then be given the opportunity to explain the meaning of the text in their own words, discuss with their peers, ask questions, express the meaning creatively through drawing or acting out, etc. 

Similarly in Mathematics, students are not doing well on practical application questions related to various content areas covered in syllabi. Perhaps teachers can spend more time in relating these concepts to practical examples from children's everyday lives and surroundings and use locally available materials such as sticks, stones, beans to help children understand abstract concepts of Number System, Operations, Measurement and Geometry. 

Ultimately, it would be most useful if teachers themselves can regularly assess their own students and identify which students require additional support on specific topics. Such simple efforts by teachers would have a huge impact in enhancing students' learning. In Environmental Studies, teachers could give emphasis on activities, project work and assignments and through practicals with the help of kits developed by NCERT or any other source. These efforts would help to design appropriate interventions to improve student learning. Tracking improvements in learning over time can help assess the impact of specific quality-related interventions and help policy and decision makers to take evidence-based decisions


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