The 2016-17 Economic Survey of India puts the crux of the problem of education in a succinct manner in their report. The summary below points towards the two primary problems of the education sector and suggests a few remedies to improve the system.
Problem 1: Low learning outcomes
We often hear of people having a matriculation or graduation degree, yet unable to deal with basic problems presented to them. This is a consequence of low learning outcomes. This is a pertinent concern that is often heard in the discourse of school education. The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 2014, and several other studies have repeatedly pointed this out. While improvements in access to education and retention in school have been mapped in these reports, the learning outcomes for a majority of children are still very low.
Problem 2: Teacher absenteeism and poor quality of teachers
It is understood that the main cause of this low learning outcomes is disinterested and absent teachers. This sizable contributes to the extremely poor quality of education in several schools across the nation. Coupled with the shortage of professionally qualified teachers, the situation assumes a grimness that India needs to address urgently.
It is seen that the share of teacher component in total Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) budget has been increasing over the years from 35 per cent in 2011-12 to 59 per cent in 2014-15, the problem of teacher absenteeism and the shortage of professionally qualified teachers continues to plague the education scenario.
From teacher absenteeism resulting in low learning outcomes to installing biometrics in schools and a robust evaluation system, the education for all mandate needs revisiting.
Solution 1: Biometric attendance
Often used in the private and corporate sectors, and in the contemporary situation in all governmental premises as well, biometric attendance system provides a good solution. It can be hoped that teacher absenteeism can be curtailed through the placement of this system. The system can be tweaked to explore to capture the daily activities as well – especially in primary schools, where teachers must press their attendance for each scheduled class, lecture, session etc, making it unique from the present system – where only coming and going of the personnel is monitored without any control on the activities during working hours. This record may be shared with the parents, and put in the public domain as well – to help everyone become more vigilant of the teachers’ activities.
The report suggests that “a pilot project in one district of every state may be commenced for six months to be expanded to all districts in three years”.
Solution 2: Adequate teaching aid and recorded lectures
The primary schools should be backed with adequate teaching aids, recorded lectures, etc. to fill in for absentee teachers and at the same time raise the quality of information available to the students. The report also warns that the “the scope of implementation should leave room for flexibility at the local level so the same do not end up as top driven ‘Model Schools’”.
Solution 3: Revised evaluation tool
It would be pertinent to set an evaluation method in schools where the biometric devices are made available. This will help understand how useful the interventions are and how the children are being benefited. It would also help build learning outcomes, which would assist in further dissemination of this methodology and strengthening of the education system, ensuring education for all.