This is how the headline goes in the newspaper today the 7th January 2016: Most Std X students below par in English, maths: NCERT. Big Gap Between Govt. And Private School Kids, Finds Study.
The study findings may be right, but only partially, as it does not survey the capability & skills of the teachers in the schools run by the government and the private entities. It also leaves out the teaching methodologies in the two set of schools, the course material used by the teachers and the students, supplemental inputs from parents or tuitions. Each of these points impacts the success rate of the students.
Let us start with the English language. While speaking for the students in the government schools we include both rural and urban populations. Can it be said with certainty that the government schools have qualified, trained English language teachers in all government schools? The fact is, there are no such teachers in rural government schools and very few in urban schools. Next is the problem with the text books and other course materials. NCERT prepares these books, but do they interest or connect with the students as smoothly as the local language? The contents of the local languages relate to their surroundings, environment, culture and day to day life of the pupils, who feel comfortable with the text, as against the English text book, which contains foreign material which needs to be explained in detail, creating an instant mental block. Coupled with the absence of a properly qualified English teacher, this obstacle goes on becoming bigger and bigger and ends up intimidating the student so much that s/he prefers to drop out rather than suffer the humiliation of getting stamped failed. The NCERT has exclusively failed the students by not devising creative reading material for second language learners to gain proficiency in the English language most comfortably. The students end up carrying the English language phobia and scare for long. The NCERT should study the reasons for the success of English language coaching centres in India, which are doing roaring business of billions of rupees annually. English language coaching in India is available from Class-I right upto graduation, professional studies and all competitive examinations. What makes their students perform successfully, can also make other students in every school succeed. In these times of high technology, we are better placed to achieve. Creativity and technology is the answer to language learning for all students. NCERT or any other agency can do so in one year’s time.
Mathematics is the worst case scenario. Lucky are those students who get a proficient mathematics teacher, who teaches them for the love of it. It is the popular perception that it is necessary to go in for private tuitions to do reasonably well in the subject, and absolutely necessary to do so for excellent results. Like English, mathematics too intimidates an average student. A greater number of students drop out because of mathematics scare. If taught properly, it is the most fascinating subject. I was lucky to learn my mathematics from my eldest brother, Shri D.C. Gupta, who was an excellent teacher, whose books for students were published in somebody else’s name but were popular. His students at SS Jain Subodh College, Sanganeri Gate, Jaipur, Rajasthan (India) might still remember him. I remember my brother remembering his mathematics teacher, Shri sankhyadhar ji at Karauli in Rajasthan, respectfully very often. If good teachers teach sincerely they win the respect of their students forever. Today, the breed of that kind of teachers has become rare. If the NCERT survey thinks that students alone are responsible for performing poorly, they have drawn wrong conclusions.
Both in English and Mathematics, I hold the teachers exclusively responsible for poor performance of the students. In these two subjects, a student can never fail so long as s/he has the good fortune of good teachers. If the performance of private school students turns out to be better, one reason for it is comparatively better teaching faculty besides parental mentoring and private tuitions. But high fee charging private schools are also no guarantee of desired excellence in English and mathematics learning. They too fail to get good teachers. Good teachers in these two subjects have huge market for their services in and out of the teaching profession. Like it or not, for the job seeker with excellence in these two subjects or any one of them, the sky is the limit. Private tuitions in mathematics are given from India to students in the world on the internet. English is a job card to the private and public sector with suitable grooming. It opens the opportunities to enter journalism, legal profession after graduation in Law and a host of other opportunities. The size of the market should have inspired the NCERT by now to invent new methods of teaching English and mathematics to the students in India.
Unless we harness technology and use our ingenuity and creativity to make our student community to learn well English & Maths, their performance will not improve. The nation’s dream of accelerated growth rate and higher per capita income is tied to rise in our teaching standards. Surveys have only one goal: to improve the extant architecture and replace it with a better one. We can do it now to usher in “Acche Din” or wait endlessly for similar results from the next survey of this kind.