World Bank warns of learning crisis in education in India

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India ranks second after Malawi, a small country in East Africa, among twelve countries facing learning crisis in education, wherein a grade two student could not read a single word of a short text, according to a report released by the World Bank. India also tops the list of seven countries in which a grade two student could not perform two-digit subtraction. The World Bank has warned of a learning crisis in India education in low and middle-income countries.

According to the  ‘World Development Report 2018: ‘Learning to Realise Education’s Promise’, millions of young students in  low and middle-income countries like India, face the prospect of lost opportunity and lower wages in later life because their primary and secondary schools are failing to educate them to succeed in life.  The report underlines the importance of schooling and warns of a learning crisis in global education. The report states that schooling without learning is not just a wasted development opportunity, but also a great injustice to children worldwide.

According to the report, in rural India in 2016, just under three-quarters of students in grade 3 could not solve a two-digit subtraction such as 46 – 17, and by grade 5 half could still not do so.  Only half of grade 5 students could fluently read text at the level of the grade 2 curriculum, which included sentences (in the local language) such as ‘It was the month of rains’ and ‘There were black clouds in the sky’. “These severe shortfalls constitute a learning crisis,” the report said.

In 2010 in Andhra Pradesh, low-performing students in grade 5 were no more likely to answer a grade 1 question correctly than those in grade 2. Even the average student in grade 5 had about a 50% chance of answering a grade 1 question correctly—compared with about 40% in grade 2.  But, an experiment in Andhra Pradesh, that rewarded teachers for gains in measured learning in math and language led to more learning not just in those subjects, but also in science and social studies, the report pointed out.  Further a computer-assisted learning program in Gujarat, improved learning when it added to teaching and learning time, especially for the poorest-performing students. Overall, these outcome makes sense—after all, literacy and numeracy are gateways to education more generally, the report pointed out.

The report recommends concrete policy steps to help developing countries resolve this dire learning crisis in the areas of stronger learning assessments, using evidence of what works and what doesn’t to guide education decision-making; and mobilising a strong social movement to push for education changes that champion ‘learning for all’.

The report stated that even after several years in school, millions of children cannot read, write or do basic math. The report emphasised the need for proper learning techniques and warned that without learning, education will fail to deliver on its promise to eliminate extreme poverty and create shared opportunity and prosperity for all. The report ‘Learning to Realise Education’s Promise’ pointed out that the learning crisis is widening social gaps instead of narrowing them and as a result the young students who are already disadvantaged by poverty, conflict, gender or disability reach young adulthood without even the most basic life skills.

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