Appraisal of the current school system

Pointers to the quality of education in schools

Strangely, consistency in quality of delivery is the hallmark of excellence (as long as the quality is above par). The highest level of quality is desirable but subordinate to consistency of the stated quality in order of importance. Conceivably, measurement of quality is a seriously tricky business; it gets bad if there are multiple ‘stars’ (people or organisations) involved in the delivery process.

It just so happens that school education is a ‘multi-starrer’ endeavour (several teachers, parents, other members of the family and community, peers, TV, books, games, FB) and measurement of quality of education in schools is quite a task. Broad measure of quality is a good starting point for schools.

  1. One of the more popular and effective instruction design guide (i.e. framework for planning teaching) is the “Bloom’s taxonomy”. It identifies three distinct domains for instruction delivery – cognitive (head), affective (heart) and psychomotor (hand). It lists six ‘learning levels’ in cognitive domain alone and these are listed below.
    1. Knowledge – to be able to recall, reproduce, describe and state.
    2. Comprehension – to be able to rewrite, paraphrase, generalise, interpret, differentiate.
    3. Application – to be able to construct, solve, discover, predict, operate.
    4. Analysis – to be able to deconstruct an idea/thing and analyse and construct.
    5. Synthesis – to be able to summarise, rearrange, modify, combine, redesign.
    6. Evaluation- to be able to justify, critique, appraise, conclude.
    Every student must go up this ladder (from knowledge to evaluation) in every subject/chapter. All the levels are mandatory! Add the other two dimensions of learning – affective and psychomotor and the cocktail of educational challenge becomes very ‘heady’. Use this framework to analyse the level of quality at which your child’s school operates. Brace yourself for the worst news!
  2. Schools are unable to nurture the ‘extra-talented’ (or gifted) among the students because the rightful nurturance of the gifted students requires individual learning plans for each. Schools’ processes are goaled for mass and not individuals.
  3. Equipped for mass education of ‘similar students’, schools should be good for the bulk of the 60-70% ‘average-performing’ students in every classroom (but by no means average in intellect or cognitive abilities), but that is not happening either! Schools are focused on the mythical average and not the real average (child).
  4. And we all know about the bottom of the class. Schools throw them out when in a ‘helping mode’, and ‘ignore’ them when in a ‘working mode’! The bottom is not even on the radar screen of schools, they can never be goaled!
  5. To be true, parents primarily pay fees for the teachers’ time (quality, quantity) and they are mostly short-changed in terms of the quality of teachers. For the most part, teachers are underwhelming because they are poorly motivated, due to low salary, weak academic background, poor communication and language skills, poor team play and leadership, and more. The rest of the infrastructure, beyond the peers and teachers, are only highly desirable conditions for quality! In fact, it is interesting to know that research consistently shows very limited effect of quality of infrastructure on quality of academics.
  6. Schools promote ‘economic careers’ rather than careers in painting, music, sports, theatre, writing, etc. because these careers take imagination, highest precision and conviction, the three things mostly not practiced in schools. Schools simply wish away the responsibility to nurture and synthesise ‘multiple intelligences’ of every student towards unique individual development.
  7. Almost all schools fail to properly complete the syllabi of all subjects across classes! Over years, the accumulation of the missing links among students leads to dangerously weak foundation in secondary classes and beyond. For example, even if 3 out of 18 chapters in science between each of the Classes VI to IX are not taught properly or simply passed over, then up to 9 chapters out of 18 chapters in Class X may become difficult for children to understand! We have assumed 3 chapters missed in class VI will also impose difficulty in understanding around 2 chapters of the next class i.e. class VII. Thus, missing out proper teaching of just 15-20% chapters leads to an almost insurmountable backlog in a few years! Many students face this reality from the pre-school years!
  8. The overwhelming majority of schools fail to really monitor and analyse what actually goes inside each classroom! The level of delivered quality in a timetabled period is greatly affected by ‘non-content’ part of teaching. For instance, teacher’s preparedness, attention on all students, query handling, body language, discussion/conversations during the timetabled period, prior knowledge assessment of students, pre-reading among students, etc., are all important determinants of quality of teaching.
  9. Do you know that the sample paper of English language in Class X exam suggests no deduction of marks for wrong spellings in certain class of questions! That is why you are often surprised by the poor command over English language of children with 95% marks in English. ‘Perfect English’ will get you 99% and average English will fetch you over 80% in many boards in India!
  10. The best schools in India promote themselves as either striving for excellence in academics or overall development of students. It is a sad commentary on the education system that even the ‘best of schools’ fail to deliver overall development on top of academic excellence for every student.

School goals are low on professional and ethical benchmarks!

‘School has become the world religion of a modernised proletariat, and makes futile promises of salvation to the poor of the technological age.’

— Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

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