Lant Pritchett on India’s state of education

Lant Pritchett of Harvard summarises the latest findings of PISA-2009 (Programme for International Student Assessment). The findings were discussed in media as well.

Findings are dismal to say the least:

The PISA 2009+ results are the end of the beginning. For the last decade there has been a debate. Some argued the levels of learning inside Indian elementary schools (primary and upper primary) are a national scandal and a threat to the future of India’s society, polity, and economy. Others appeared to believe that the main, if not only, problem with Indian schools was that not enough children attend them and that with more money and more of the same, all would be well. The last five years saw a relentless accumulation of evidence about the crisis of learning. The establishment has tried to deny, deflect, and dismiss the evidence on learning. Eventually the Government of India agreed to participate in the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) – but only for two states, Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh – and both sides agreed PISA was the litmus test. The PISA 2009+ results, which are both official and are beyond gain-saying are unspeakably bad. They confirm the worst of what anyone has been saying about the levels of learning in India elementary education. 

Hmmm…Beginning of an end. He points to various indicators showing how bad these two states have fared.

  • In reading of the 74 regions participating in PISA 2009 or 2009+ these two states beat out only Kyrgyzstan.
  • In mathematics of the 74 regions participating the two states finished again, second and third to last, again beating only Kyrgyzstan.
  • In science the results were even worse, Himachal Pradesh came in dead last, behind Kyrgyzstan, while Tamil Nadu inched ahead to finish 72nd of 74.

See the post for details. He sumamrises as:

These PISA 2009+ results are the end of the beginning. The debate is over. No one can still deny there is a deep crisis in the ability of the existing education system to produce child learning. India’s education system is undermining India’s legitimate aspirations to be at the global forefront as a prosperous economy, as a global great power, as an emulated polity, and as a fair and just society. As the beginning ends, the question now is: what is to be done? 

Am sure people will have different opinions. But going by personal experience (not empirically tested!!), the meaning of education has changed. It is just about mugging and clearing exams. Very few understand the purpose of teaching several principles and there is no real stress on basics. The best example of how we forget basics is to see the huge surge forcoaching classes  preparing for CAT kind of exams. I was amazed when I first took it seeing how basic the whole thing was. Barring some complicated qs, most tested basics before class 10.  And basics were obviously not common.

I mean even at higher levels it is all about vomiting the answers on the exam paper. Very little focus is on explaining things to students and making them understand the purpose of the study.  If these are the findings of primary school, tests at college level are unlikely to be any better. Most people learn things after colleges in India especially economics!!!

Worst is this was not always the case. Talking to parents, you realise they have better basics and they did not have the facilities we have now. So, somewhere things have gone wrong. It has been well known that marks should not be the way to evaluate good and bad students, but practices continues. To see so many students getting 100% in class 12 and getting admissions in top colleges in Delhi University makes this whole thing look so silly. And even more funny is to see higher authorities in these schools and colleges defending these 100% marks. I mean how is it that so many are getting 100% in subjects like English etc…Makes no sense at all..

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One Response to “Lant Pritchett on India’s state of education”

  1. ramadeva Says:

    There seem to be a lot of vested interests.For one thing,reportedly,the Harvard Business School went bankrupt due to investment in Derivatives!!There are certain good things about Indian education from the time of the Vedas.
    1.No Drugs
    2.No Education loan.Please google for:- Student College Loan Scam in the USA.Slowly the ones in the USA who “cannot” afford are coming to countries like India for education!!!
    3.Education in the USA has been and is being,systematically destroyed from the BEGINNING of the 20th Century,by Carnegie,then Rockefeller and now Bill Gates[ the power of the US Government,as been usurped by Charity for education etc as Philanthropy is “tax-exempt’ in the USA.].
    Please also google for;-
    Outcome-based Education.

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