15th January 2019 : The Hindu Editorials Notes : Mains Sure Shot for UPSC IAS Exam
Question – As we know the learning outcome of children in private schools are better than those of government schools in India. Is better teaching practices by the teachers the only reason? Explain.
Before we begin let us understand the importance of pre-school education:
- The pre-school years of a child are very important in shaping his cognitive development.
- These early years provide them with requisite skills to cope with the school curriculum in the coming years.
- A vast literature exists on the importance of certain cognitive abilities that are supposed to be developed during the years children spend in pre-school, so that they are “ready” when they enter school in grade one.
- This is the first place where the child builds his/her self-esteem. A child learns the importance of his own name, things and friends. Every child learns to communicate with his teachers and fellow students in the Pre School. It is the right place for the child’s foundation for lifelong progress. The skills and knowledge that the child develops in the Pre School have a great impact on the aptitude and attitude of the child later in life.
- Researches on Pre School education have shown that children taught at an early age usually have improved social skills, fewer behavioural problems and better grades without special and attention. Self confidence gained by learning in a playful manner adds to the personality development of the child.
- Moreover childhood education specialists claim that young children learn best when they have an opportunity to interact with their peers, and their parents and instructors treat them kindly. They bloom well in a tension free environment. Besides they comprehend and learn things better if they are introduced to new things in small portions.
- According to the grade 1 curriculum, children are supposed to be able to identify and read words and simple sentences. Now, according to the Annual Status of EducationReport (ASER) 2019, 21% of children in grade one of government schools could read words compared to 46.7% in private schools — an advantage of 122%.
- The reason certainly cannot be just one i.e. the better performance of teachers of private schools. There is a need to understand the deeper causes.
- First, the age distribution in grade one of government schools is very different from that in private schools. The Right to Education and national policy mandates that children enter grade one at age six. However, 26.1% children in grade one of government schools are four or five years old compared to 15.7% in private schools. At the other end of the spectrum, 30.4% children in grade one of government schools are seven-eight years old compared to 45.4% in private schools.
- Therefore, comparing learning levels in grade one between government and private schools becomes problematic. The higher learning levels in grade one, in private schools, may be partly due to the fact that grade one in those schools has a higher proportion of older children.
- Second, it is well known that children who go to private schools come from relatively affluent backgrounds. They also tend to have more educated parents. This affords them certain advantages which are not available to children who are from less advantaged families and are more likely to attend government schools. For instance, 30% of government school grade one children, in the ASER 2019 sample, had mothers who had never been to school compared to only 12% of grade one private school children.
- Third, 27.3% of grade one children in private schools had private tutors compared to 19.5% in government schools.
- Fourth, early childhood education is supposed to prepare children for school. Children are supposed to be exposed to activities that build their cognitive abilities and early literacy and numeracy skills. For instance, the National Early Childhood Care and Education curriculum framework talks about developing skills related to sequential thinking, predicting patterns, observing, reasoning and problem solving in the preschool stage. These cognitive and early language skills are highly correlated with the child’s ability to acquire further language skills. Therefore, children who enter grade one better prepared with these skills are likely to perform better.
- For instance, among the cognitive tasks administered in ASER 2019 (seriation, pattern recognition and puzzle) only 23.8% children of grade one in government schools could do all three tasks compared to 43.1% in private schools.
- Also as seen preschools play an important role. What private pre-schools are doing is to start children on the school-based curriculum in pre-school itself. In other words, the private sector keeps children longer in pre-school and exposes them to school-like curricula even before they have entered school. For instance, 14% children in anganwadis could recognise letters or more compared to 52.9% in private pre-schools; and 12.9% children in these private pre-schools were already reading words (something they are supposed to learn in grade one) compared to 2.9% in anganwadis. It is not surprising, therefore, that children from private pre-schools perform better in school.
- Finally, children in anganwadis do worse than private pre-school children on cognitive as well as early language tasks such as picture description. For instance, while 23.4% of private pre-school children could do all three cognitive tasks, only about half (12%) of the children in anganwadis could do them.
- Once we take into account all these factors — age distribution in grade one, home factors such as affluence, mother’s education, home learning environment, and some baseline abilities that children enter grade one with, private schools still have a learning advantage. It cannot solely be attributed to better teaching practices in private schools.
- India has a huge investment in its early childhood programme, administered through 1.2 million anganwadis under the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme. The findings of ASER 2019 make a clear case for strengthening these early childhood education centres so that they implement appropriate “school-readiness” activities.
- A case can also be made for streamlining the curriculum at the preschool stage so that all pre-schools focus on activities that build cognitive and early literacy and numeracy skills. These will aid further learning.
Note – There is another article titled ‘The Long wait for empowered Mayors’. The article points out to the importance of strong leadership even at local level through the example of Delhi:
- It says that even though the Central Government which controls important departments providing civic services mainly through the Urban Development and Home Ministries, and the matrix between them is not so smooth, still the Delhi government was able to do considerable work. The reason it sites is strong leadership.
- It says that Delhi’s ambitious budgets for development stand apart from those of other cities, and built the Chief Minister’s reputation more as a super Mayor in a city-State.
- Though the article is not much important it certainly has some important points like – Government departments will feel accountable for urban services and infrastructure only under the watch of an empowered leader, who enjoys the mandate of the city’s residents.
- A lot of time has been lost, as recalcitrant State leaders, who often have remote rural bases of support, stymie the pace of orderly urban development. Lack of coherence in government is hindering better productivity, and causing losses through pollution, congestion and poor outcomes on infrastructure investments. The priorities are flawed, the administration is fragmented and the capacity of city governments is low.
- In the coming decade, progress on Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the UN Habitat New Urban Agenda will come under close international scrutiny. India’s cities need a new deal, one that is focused on development. Only elected, empowered and accountable Mayors can deliver on that.