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Education can be a great leveler but only if government schools deliver it better- by Times of India

The district-wise data from the National Achievement Survey (NAS) 2017 is a wake-up call to central and state governments. It indicates that education in government schools is failing to equip a majority of children for the academic rigours of higher education or the confidence to acquire skills and pursue gainful employment. And yet the data also reveals aspirations at work, of girls outshining boys, rural schools bettering urban ones, OBCs outperforming general category, and Dalit students doing better than others in primary classes in some pockets.
Although experts say those with resources have migrated to private schools leaving mostly OBC, Dalit, Adivasi and poor students in government schools, this is also a great window of opportunity for weaker sections of society. This urge to learn and venture outside traditional occupations makes it incumbent upon governments to not let down first generation learners. Unfortunately, while there has been a great emphasis on assessments in this past decade and we now have a wealth of data from these studies, it all points to declining learning outcomes.
NAS 2017 shows Class III, V and VII students tested on subjects like math, language and sciences suffer declining learning outcomes, with higher classes scoring fewer marks. Weaknesses in primary education are getting amplified as students move to higher classes. Clearly, more teachers are needed, they need better training, and curriculum and study material must converge with capacities of teachers and students. But is any of this being done? The time for assessment is over; implementation must start.
The elementary decision to crack down on cheating forced 10 lakh UP board students to drop out of Class X and XII exams. But stopping mass cheating was the easier part. Such mass dropouts underline a crying need to improve teaching and learning systems, especially as technological disruption through automation and robotics is poised to eliminate many lakh unskilled jobs. We also have the likes of 16-year-old Harshita Arora from Saharanpur, UP, who left school to pursue alternative computer education and developed a popular mobile app monitoring cryptocurrency price fluctuations. Her story suggests all the potential that can be unlocked if the education system is rapidly upgraded. If funding, institutional will, and trained teachers can plug into aspirations, results will show. Education, like livelihoods, must become an election issue.


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