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Pune: Nearly 66% Children In This Low-Income School Suffer From Severe Learning Gaps

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A classroom wall in a low-income school in Khadki

Pune, India: A pen scratches a paper in a quiet school near Khadki Bazaar. As the child attempts to duplicate the text written on the blackboard, he is unable to comprehend the meaning of the words he has been writing in his notebook.

Nearly 66% of students studying in a particular grade at a low-income school in Khadki haven’t been found on their academic grade levels and suffer from severe learning gaps.

There are many factors that may lead to this situation; inequity in school culture, climate, policy, resources in school, uneven distribution of experienced teachers, little investment by teachers and parents, low-attendance of teachers and students, inconsistent process of tracking and special education, underrepresentation of ethnic and racial minorities, limited beliefs and implicit biases against student ability, socio-economic gaps of the students, and lack of knowledge and interventions for struggling students. [1]

Despite being promoted to a new standard every year (No Detention Policy, RTE), the students are unable to read and write grade levelled texts or solve grade levelled math problems. As per the national data, more than 50% of Grade 5 students in India can’t read a basic Grade 2 text in English or solve a problem in subtraction. Many provisions have been set up by Maharashtra Board such as standardised assessments to detect the grade levels and special resources. However, either the programs have been ineffective in creating an impact or simply missing from the schools set up in low-wealth communities. [3]

While the state acknowledges the inability to learn among many students in a particular grade, the grade-levelled curriculum, and improvement in the classroom strategies shall collectively hit the big picture only when Early Childhood Care and Education is given to all children for lifelong learning and development. 9.7% of India’s population below five years of age supplied to the schools remains misaligned with different academic levels of every student. [2]

Both the National Policy on Education (1986 and 1992) and the RTE (2009) (Sec 11) recognize the importance of ECCE and provide some welfare schemes such as the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) programme. The programme lacks access to quality and monitoring services as well as limited training of workers that has resulted in ECCE reaching only a small proportion of children in the country. Such factors have majorly affected the quality care children receive, which further fuels the crisis of the academic levels in the classrooms.

While the present education system has severely affected academics in Khadki, it also has a major role in going beyond textbooks and impacting the mental health and personal relationships of the students as well as their family members who count on them. Apart from struggling with school, students have also claimed to have been suffering from bonding with others, paying attention, and speaking in a social setting. The students continuously live under the threat of being stereotyped and bashed against internalised beliefs. [1]

With the lack of awareness about learning issues in the community, the students don’t receive adequate support and are made to believe that the fault to not cope up with studies lies with them. They are also subjected to gruesome violence and bullying mostly from the guardians and teachers, and sometimes by their peers when they are unable to fit in the social atmosphere.

While there are many government and independent resources to tackle this issue, they are either missing or can’t be afforded by many working-class people. The academic provisions need to be revised and made more accessible to all children in India. Many scholars have argued that in order to solve this challenge, the focus should always be on the core elements of quality schooling (the leaders, the teachers, and the students). [1]

A very important intervention is allowing free movement and physical activities teamed up with regular home-visits or meeting students outside of school space. A study conducted by the Institute of Medicine in 2013 also backed the same by stating the importance of physical activities in elementary classrooms and aligning it with higher academic performances. [4]

Note:

    1. The students and other residents have confirmed the data related to learning gaps and their impact.
    2. The author worked as a teacher in a low-income school in Khadki for two years, and her opinions on education are backed by her experience and the outcome it generated.
    3. The observation is based on a sample set of 90 students in a particular grade and their learning levels in English and Maths as per April 2018.
    4. The opinions and solutions for grade level gaps are a combination of scholarly findings and the author’s perspective. She has credited the sources wherever the views are not hers.
    5. This article is based on the author’s learning and experiences and doesn’t summarize the issue of grade-level gaps in the country. The issue or the solutions may vary in different contexts, and there may still be room for more perspectives by other educators or experts as well.

References:

  1. http://us.corwin.com/en-us/nam/equity-causes-of-achievement-gaps
  2. http://www.asercentre.org/Keywords/p/337.html
  3. https://macp.gov.in/baseline-survey-indicators-measure
  4. www.nationalacademies.org/hmd/Reports/2013/Educating-the-Student-Body-Taking-Physical-Activity-and-Physical-Education-to-School/Report-Brief052313.aspx
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