Implementation of NAS policies on learning based outcomes is however an uphill task as it needs to change the existing marks based and output based outcome system from ground level but it is implementable and will completely rejuvenate the primary and school education system.
To understand the prevailing scenario I have studied the loopholes and deadlocks in the existing system and only then will we be able to see a way forward in implementing NAS policies on the learning based outcome.
The state of primary education is a case in point here. From the government’s perspective, when it comes to access to education, we usually witness a standard, patterned response on any investigative inquiry which raises questions.
To understand this prevailing scenario I have taken the case study of the State of Haryana which has a very poor education outcome. Let’s understand what the scenario is in this Northern Indian State. The schools in the State, which have 70% of schools in rural areas, can be divided into three major categories:
The need and requirement of each type of school can further be divided into the following categories to understand the areas which need to be addressed:
A report published in The Wire Magazine presented the following analysis:
The Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 was initiated to mandate access to free, compulsory education to all children aged between 6-14 years. With the implementation of RTE, the government has aimed to increase the enrolment of students across states in government-aided schools (including private schools) and thereby create equal access to free, high-quality primary education for those in need. Other objectives of the 2009 Act include reducing any discriminatory gap between economically weaker sections, promoting universal retention of education and bridging the gender gap.
The report further adds that the reality is totally different when investigators went to schools in the Sonipat District.
Basic infrastructure and other amenities: The classrooms constructed (especially for students below class five) are not sufficient for the total number of students enrolled (on average around 120-150 students were enrolled below class five in the government primary schools covered).
The washrooms in all schools were found in unhygienic conditions and the school buildings remain largely surrounded by waste and dump, during the visits made.
Basic amenities (promised under RTE norms) like school uniforms, stationery and books were not sufficiently provided to students. For example, based on responses collected from class six and seven students, students on average were found to be provided with two uniforms and three pencils for an entire academic year. (A sample of 12-15 students from each school were asked questions regarding basic amenities, and sampled responses reflect the collective view of most students enrolled in these grades.)
The books were usually delivered late, which meant students had to incur out-of-pocket expenditure to purchase books to and prepare for their exams. This created dissatisfaction amongst students and parents, resulting in a higher absentee record.
Lack and non-availability of teachers: According to the Act, if a school does not have a teacher for a compulsory course, it is the responsibility of government school management to provide a replacement teacher within certain time and use government funds for this (this includes private, government-aided schools too).
Exceeding student-teacher ratio: The prescribed student-teacher ratio is 30:1. However, schools studied had an average student-teacher ratio of greater than 60:1. For example, the Government Primary School, Jatheri, had between 40-50 students sitting in each classroom for classes five through eight.
Separation of classrooms based on gender: In almost all classes and grades, a gendered segregation was observed in the seating arrangement of students in classrooms, a practice that is against RTE norms. Boys were not allowed to sit with girls and any form of social contact between the boys and girls was strongly discouraged. When asked for the reasons of such segregation, teachers refused to comment.
In its new policy NAS has adopted a very methodological approach to implement it in schools, unlike the previous policy which was based on a common course curriculum based outcome, marks and examination pattern, classroom teaching, collecting random samples from schools and selecting III,V,VIII and X standard students to give feedback, complete the feedback and report in three years cycle, taking the feedback from National and State level.
The NAS current learning based outcome policy focuses on Parameters of Student learning outcomes, feedback on LOs, District as a sampling unit at grades III, V & VIII, Complete within the session preliminary, District level feedback for quality interventions.
Despite the fact that NAS has done a tremendous job I still feel that implementation of learning based outcome and recognition of schools should be done within the following parameters. Many of the below mentioned points have already been addressed in NAS Policy. Let me explain how my thoughts and the below points for recognizing schools by taking following points in to account will reform the education system; they are easily, systematically and methodologically implementable among schools.
This is a factual truth that most schools in rural parts of States have an underrated and poorly managed infrastructure, be it school building, classrooms, sanitation, ICT and other teaching tools, furniture and so on. Urban government schools and private ones are slightly better in this area. A good facility gives a healthy atmosphere for learning and decision making authorities need to ensure better infrastructure in schools through State Coordinators and Field investigators which is key focus of NAS Policy.
The existing scenario in state is that a class has more than 50 students tucked into a single class which results in students making noise and not paying attention to teaching. It also distracts a teacher in classrooms. NAS Policy and RTE says that a class must not have beyond 30 students and needs to be implemented through MIS Coordinators and Field investigators.
Teacher student ratio, RTE says, should be 30:1 which may be considered a standard size. This will enable a teacher to pay attention to each student and will be able to initiate classroom discussion and debate. Again the district coordinator is the right person to make sure it is implemented.
The existing system not only lacks modern ICT tools like LEDs in classrooms, computers with internet connection, electronic boards, etc, but the traditional blackboard teaching tools are also missing in most rural schools. Decision making authorities in the state should allot a separate fund for this to make sure that ICT tools are made available to schools through district coordinators and field investigators.
The current exam and evaluation pattern is faulty where the marks and result output based system is in place where written exams have more value. This is because students need to read tons of books which they carry everyday to school resulting them writing long pages of answersheets for the sake of good marks. The NAS and I myself believe that written exams should be given only 25% weightage while 75% weightage should be given to observation, field study, practices, group discussions, lab work, excursions and term papers which should again be practice based.
It can easily be implemented through field investigators who can be monitored by district coordinators.
The parent and teacher are two pillars to ensure a learning based outcome. This is a teacher who informs a parent via weekly or monthly PTMs, emails and phone calls about progress of their ward which makes a great impact on the student’s learning based outcome. This must be monitored through district coordinators.
A group of students should be put under one mentor teacher who may look after his/her academic progress, emotional need and provide counselling time to time. This makes a great value to learning based outcome and I think that the District coordinator should ask for a monthly report from each school on the mentoring system.
It is true that the existing teaching methodology in more than 90% schools is traditional where a teacher barges into the classroom, starts speaking whatever he/she has in mind, provides some notes and the job is done. The core objective of a learning based outcome should be to adopt the learn by doing and learn by observation technique among students. Here I will cite one example. While attending NASA’s Educator workshops the trainer himself did the same exercise first, creating a model which he wanted attendees to learn and make via audio visual presentation and real act of exercise and then gave time to attendees to make it. I firmly believe that teaching methodology should have the following elements:
Field Study based
Term Paper which is again practice based
When I say students’comfort it surely does not mean luxury to students but to make them relax with an overburdened and boring curriculum, load of books, examination stress and output based outcome. This must again bre implemented through district coordinators.
Most of the private schools are charging a fee which is way too high from the reach of the lower middle class and rural population in the name of security, building charge, a/c classrooms, transport and other amenities which hardly makes any change in the learning based outcome. Decision making authorities must ensure that private schools charge a reasonable fee and make sure field investigators may have a tab on this.
Further to the above mentioned additional methods, NAS policy on Learning based outcome can be implemented if:
1- NAS Ensure timely interventions in each school
2-Encourage the classroom
3-Strengthen the capacity of teacher training institutions
4-Use technology as a key tool for tracking data
5-Involve stakeholders in quality education
6-Development and finalization of survey tools
7- Drawing of Samples
8- Training of State & District Coordinators
9- Printing of survey tools at State Level
10- Dispatch of survey tools to schools
11- Preparatory Day Activities
12- Day of Assessment
13- Data capturing and reporting for analysis
14 – Generation of District Level Reports
15- Development of state and national reports
I strongly feel that if NAS policy on learning based outcome is implemented through newly designed four layers coordinator and investigator system and NAS also follows the points which I have added here in its new policy we can formally set the parameters to give recognition by evaluating them under the above mentioned categories, also given under:
The National team is led by MHRD, NCERT, UNICEF and Project Management Unit (PMU). The national implementation of NAS is the responsibility of the Educational Survey Division (ESD) at NCERT. The Head of ESD is the National Coordinator and is supported by the NCERT faculty.
The State Project Director – Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) will coordinate/ facilitate the monitoring of NAS at state level. Her/His role is to monitor all activities related to NAS in the State/UT. These include establishing infrastructure and quality monitoring activities like printing, training and administration of NAS.
SCERT/SIE Director is the State/UT Coordinator and is responsible for the implementation of NAS. This includes translation and vetting of survey tools, printing and dispatch of survey materials, and other related tasks of NAS. S/he will nominate two associate State/UT coordinators for implementation of NAS in state.
Principal of the DIET is the district coordinator. In case a DIET is not present in a district then the State Coordinator – Implementation will nominate a senior college lecturer or senior faculty member as District Coordinator. The District Coordinator is responsible for the ground level implementation of NAS and training of Field Investigators.
The Field Investigator should preferably be a DIET student. If the states have no or less number of DIET trainees, they can select the FIs from B.Ed./M.Ed. trainees from government colleges, B.Ed./M.Ed. trainees from Private Teacher Education Institutes (TEI), trained teachers who are not working in government schools, retired school teachers, Master of Social Work students, private school teachers in the given order. The role and responsibilities of the Field Investigator include ensuring standardized implementation of the NAS survey tools. The Field Investigator should complete the administration of all tests in all classes on the Day of Assessment.
The MIS Coordinator is one of two assistant District Coordinators who will be deputed by State Level Coordinator-Monitoring (SPD-SSA). S/he should have experience and knowledge of scanning OMRs and is expert in using computers and software. The responsibility of the MIS coordinator is to organize scanning of survey tools, cross check the scanned data with the field notes.
Apart from the above coordinators these are the three most important stake holders in my opinion:
The conflict of interest among all 9 stakeholders will rise if any one of the above is not performing his duty, lacking accountability, responsibility, dedication and seriousness. Otherwise India is all set to open a new chapter in school Education.
The NAS policy on learning based outcome appears to be a foolproof plan for overhauling school education in India but there might be some political and legal bottlenecks. The one conflict I see is between right wing, center and left ideologies. For instance, only yesterday the Haryana state government made it mandatory to chant Gayatri Mantra in schools while at one stage chanting Vande Mataram is also made compulsory. While I feel that some particular ideology should not jeopardise the entire outcome I see no harm in becoming a little nationalistic. Each country is having its own proud history which rejuvenates students and if our country has lots to recall it must be incorporated in the curriculum. But at the same time, historical facts cannot be changed.
Legal bottlenecks can be between privately run schools and the government where private schools are always eyeball to eyeball with the government for imposing stringent guidelines on fees and other areas without realizing that policies are made for both government and private schools.
How would outcomes based governance mechanism prevent common perverse incentives like ‘teaching for the test’, ‘selection bias on testing day’, ‘denying admission to weaker students’ etc?:
Once we implement the policy based on the following elements we will be easily overcome with teaching for tests, selection bias and denying admission to weaker students.
The four layered coordinator team from state coordinator to field investigator can easily ensure that no double standard is in practice when it comes to teaching for the test, ‘selection bias on testing day’, ‘denying admission to weaker students’, etc, in schools.