- The education establishment reacts to the PISA results for Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh. [Indian Express]
Rattled over the dismal performance of Indian schools on a reputed international ranking system, the Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry has asked the National Council of Education Research & Training (NCERT) to probe reasons for this poor show and submit a report to Minister Kapil Sibal.The MHRD officials (in a Freudian slip?) suggest that the results are bad because a large number of government and rural schools were included in the sample! The Indian Express reporter smartly checked with Dr. Ratna Dhamija, the PISA Co-ordinator at ACER India, the organisation that conducted the test, and she busted that theory.
There was a random selection of schools from the two states for PISA with a large number of government and rural area schools in the sample size, sources said. This was also a factor to be considered in view of the nature of PISA questions, officials pointed out.
“It is important for you to know that the schools who participated in the PISA 2009+ were randomly selected by the PISA consortium and were selected from all eligible educational institutions of the two states where 15-year-old students were studying,” said Dr Ratna Dhamija, manager India, Australian Council for Educational Research (India) that helped in conducting PISA for India, in an emailed response to this newspaper.
- Lant Pritchett analyses the PISA results in Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh and says "They confirm the worst of what anyone has been saying about the levels of learning in India elementary education."
- Teach for India Fellow, Rahul Panda bemoans our tolerance and forbearance with the poor quality of elementary education
How has the free, compulsory and nearly meaningless (if not entirely useless) education provided in government schools failed to stir the collective conscience? Perhaps because the establishment has done just about enough to string people along. The midday meal scheme is, to put it mildly, a devious masterstroke. For (the government may argue) what use is teaching a kid who doesn’t even get two square meals a day? Fair point, I concede. But a counter to that would be: what use is feeding a kid once a day without teaching him anything and eventually leaving him to fend for himself with little education and no skills to find meaningful employment? A classic case of feed a fish or teach to fish. In the case of government schools however, even the quality of the fish is suspect. .....The country's top bananas are unlikely to react unless the educational inequality is made a burning political issue. They know there is no simple solution, but don't want to grapple with the problem head on and take tough decisions. So they have resorted to stringing people along by passing flawed legislation like the Right to Education Act, to give people the feeling that they are doing something that nobody had done for 60 years to address the growing inequality of opportunity in education in India.
Why does this not fail to incite the youth’s ire? It is because educational inequity has always been a subliminal issue. And that could be attributed to the fact that its effect cannot be readily quantified. .....
The scale of the problem of educational inequity in the country is too immense to wrap one’s wits around. To say the least, and at the risk of sounding tedious, it’s a no brainer that it has now become imperative for the country’s top bananas (if I may be allowed that expression) to come forth to try and solve it. We need more people teaching in classrooms than the ill-informed yet enthusiastic crowd that spilled onto the streets during the anti-graft campaign. And even then we’d fall short by a huge margin
Pratap Bhanu Mehta put it bluntly by saying,
Nobody in the political system realises that the historical window of opportunity for putting in lasting changes is very small. In our case, it is 10 to 15 years given our demography. If we don’t lay the foundation for wealth and prosperity in the next 15 years, then the India story is gone forever. You will then grow old, before you grow rich.
- Coincidentally, an article in The Atlantic looks at why Finland's schools are successful and points to their focus on addressing inequity.
Decades ago, when the Finnish school system was badly in need of reform, the goal of the program that Finland instituted, resulting in so much success today, was never excellence. It was equity.There is an interesting quote in The Atlantic story attributed to Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education's Center for International Mobility and author of the new book Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?. In response to the question he encounters in America - How can you improve teaching if you have no accountability for bad teachers or merit pay for good teachers, he says
Since the 1980s, the main driver of Finnish education policy has been the idea that every child should have exactly the same opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, income, or geographic location. Education has been seen first and foremost not as a way to produce star performers, but as an instrument to even out social inequality.As for accountability of teachers and administrators, Sahlberg shrugs. "There's no word for accountability in Finnish," he later told an audience at the Teachers College of Columbia University. "Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted."