What is missing from the Indian education system?

Young people in India are part of an education system that values ​​academic achievement the most. Here are some evidence-based interventions that can provide them with a holistic learning experience.

In India, many young people do not stay in school beyond the primary level. Those who leave the school system tend to remain unemployed, while those who remain in the system show relatively poor learning outcomes. Although providing young people with a good education is an important goal for all countries, India is particularly struggling to achieve this goal. Some of the obstacles to its realization stem from the fact that insufficient resources have been allocated to the education systems by the central and state governments of the nation. Moreover, the resources spent by government, parents and the students themselves are not used effectively to achieve the best possible results.

Developing a good education system that meets higher order goals, such as fostering good attitudes and a sense of morality, justice, and optimism, is a difficult undertaking. In fact, it is entirely possible that traditional school systems may lead students away from these goals, even if they manage to successfully impart reading, writing and arithmetic skills. Moreover, non-cognitive skills, which complement and greatly enhance the contribution of more traditional cognitive skills, are often overlooked. The most important non-cognitive skills include openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. These skills have a strong ability to predict long-term outcomes in life and can be shaped by various tools and interventions.
Educational interventions have focused primarily on school improvement, the success of which is measured by the scores obtained by their students in examinations. This narrow view assumes that achievement test scores reflect life skills and does not sufficiently consider the importance of non-cognitive skills and how they can be developed over time.

Addressing this urgent India-wide challenge, which affects more than 500 million children and young people, requires a number of interventions both at the systemic level and at the level of children currently in school. Although systemic changes can only happen gradually, some evidence-based interventions can be implemented today to improve the cognitive, non-cognitive, and job-readiness skills of young people. Policy makers and change agents will need to continue to carefully explore longer term solutions knowing that the following interventions cannot substitute for structural reforms.

Psychosocial stimulation in early childhood

Providing psychosocial stimulation – physical, sensory and/or emotional – to young children can have a substantial impact later in life, especially when their parents are also trained to provide such stimulation. For example, a study in Cuttack, Orissa, analyzed the impact of 18 months of one-hour weekly home visits with children living in slums and their primary caregivers (usually the mother). These visits aimed to increase and improve the interactions between the children and their mothers, as well as the mother’s ability to support the development of her children through play. The intervention improved the development of these young children in urban slums. However, scaling these programs up effectively requires further consideration, as changes to the intervention model in order to scale it up can impact its effectiveness.

Self-regulation of behavior in early childhood

If young children, ideally in school settings at the first grade level, learn explicitly to regulate their own behavior and that of their classmates through simple, structured team games, it can have a significant impact on a number their behaviors into adulthood. . The PAX Good Behavior game is an example of such an exercise that teaches children to self-regulate when excited. In the long term, the capacity for self-regulation promoted by such exercises has an impact on behaviors such as drug and alcohol abuse, smoking, antisocial personality disorder, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. .

Train teachers to deal with negative childhood experiences
Teachers need to be trained to be aware that a “difficult” child may in fact be the victim of one or more negative childhood experiences. They also need training to deal with these behaviors. First, they need to recognize if a child is going into survival mode and respond with kindness and compassion. Asking ‘What’s going on here?’ rather than ‘What’s wrong with this child?’ can trigger a mental switch that will help identify when a student is displaying a fear response, which can take many forms. Second, it is important to create calm and predictable classroom transitions for all children. Building a routine around transitions can help children understand what the transition will look like, what they’re supposed to do, and what’s next. Third, praising all children publicly and criticizing them privately ensures sensitivity to those who have experienced complex trauma. Finally, using mindfulness practice in the classroom for all children can be beneficial, as it helps counter the impact of trauma.

Train teachers to provide personal safety education (PSE) to children

Child sexual abuse is a critical issue, and a broader systemic response to this problem requires reaching beyond the school, involving parents more closely in its prevention and addressing issues of larger societies. However, providing PSE to children has been shown to reduce the likelihood of them becoming victims of sexual abuse. Arpan, a non-profit organization based in Mumbai, offers (and provides training on) PSE programs, having already developed such programs for schools and parents. In addition, Arpan has created a detailed set of guidelines on the steps to follow during one-on-one interactions between children and PES facilitators and recommendations on how to approach the issue of child sexual abuse disclosure at the school policy level.

Teaching children at the right level

Grouping school-aged children, even for short periods, by levels of learning rather than age or grade level and providing them with short periods of targeted exposure in areas where they need remediation can have a significant impact. on their learning levels. Substantial formal evidence for this approach can be found in joint work conducted by Pratham and the Poverty Action Lab at MIT. A version of this approach was implemented in Uttar Pradesh and administered by volunteers and Pratham staff during school hours. This involved grouping children in grades 3 to 5 according to their abilities and teaching them Hindi and Mathematics. Before the start of the intervention, 39% of the children could not recognize letters and only 15% of them could read a paragraph or a story. After delivery of the intervention, only 8% could not recognize letters and 49% could read a paragraph or story. Curriculum development for such a program can potentially be taken over by specialist groups such as Eklavya for math and science and Pratham for purpose-built math games.
Teach through questions

An adaptive method based on questions and answers is generally considered an effective way for students to learn. This works especially with good teachers and small class sizes, where the teacher is able to work with each student at their own level of learning in each subject. However, in India, it is not possible to provide every student in a traditional classroom with the same degree of individual attention. Therefore, a computer-assisted learning approach, which uses artificial intelligence to deliver highly personalized extra-curricular instruction to children, might be an alternative to explore. This approach was found to improve the Hindi and math test scores of middle school students who had access to it, and its effects did not vary by students’ baseline test scores, gender, or socio-status. – economic of the household.

Addressing “young people of opportunity”

India has about 225 million people between the ages of 16 and 24, of whom about 187.5 million are not in any educational institution. Around 42 million of these young people are also not employed and can be categorized as ‘young people of opportunity’. Existing evidence suggests that the most promising avenue is to provide these groups with programs that offer mentorship, advice and information. These programs should be workplace-based, building job skills and providing disadvantaged young people with the guidance and discipline that may often be lacking in their homes or schools. In the Indian context, a program that provided additional on-the-job soft skills training to female garment workers in Bangalore found that it increased their extroversion and communication and facilitated the improvement of their technical skills. In addition, the apprenticeship program offered by TeamLease Skills University in partnership with the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Ministry of Skills Development and Entrepreneurship provides vocational skills in a real workplace, thereby also developing non-cognitive skills.

Each of the above interventions has various local examples of models that have been implemented at scale and rigorously evaluated. Indian policy makers and political entrepreneurs can learn from this to meet the challenge of providing holistic learning to the country’s youth.



The opinions expressed above are those of the author.