India cannot take off with present quality of school education

There is  an international students assessment program , PISA, to assess school leaving  students’  reading skills, Mathematics skills , and science skills, this helps to understand a country’s position in relation to other countries. First and last time India took part in the program was in 2009, India was ranked last among 74 competing countries. But just coming in last, does not convey the enormity of how bad these results were— as not only was India last, it was far, far behind its aspirations, both at the bottom and at the top levels of performance.
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Compared to the economic superstars India is almost unfathomably far behind. Our average 15 year old is over 200 points behind.  Indian eighth graders are at the level of Korea third graders in their mathematics mastery. In fact Our average child is 40/50 points behind the worst students in the economic superstars. Equally worrisome is that our best performers were almost 100 points behind the average child in Singapore, and 83 points behind the average Korean, and a staggering 250 points behind the best, in the best.

It’s no wonder that [ as per Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) ( first editorial Economic Times dated 18.01.2018) , from amongst students who have cleared Class 8, up till which level no one can be detained for failing to achieve minimum levels of academic proficiency , 40% cannot tell the time looking at an analogue clock, 36% do not know the capital of India and 62% cannot compute a 10% discount on a given price. Apart from crippling their ability to earn a decent livelihood after leaving school, what such education will do is to sow the seeds of social discord, crime and chaos.

Now, what is PISA? Program for international student assessment ( PISA ), organized by OECD countries, examine the extent to which 15 year old students nearing the end of compulsory education, have acquired the key knowledge, and skills that are essential for full participation in modern societies. PISA tests students’ creative and critical thinking skills, and their capacity to apply what they have learnt in reading, mathematics, science and 21st century real-world skills. It gathers information about students’ social and emotional skills, their attitudes towards  learning, and well being. It also measures how equitably countries offer education opportunities to their young citizens. The assessment allow countries to compare their education policies and practices, with those of the highest performing and rapidly improving systems in the world, and to learn from the comparisons.


Mathematics scores, country wise Reading scores, country wise Science scores, country wise
Singapore–564 535 556
China–531 494 518
Korea–524 517 516
Canada–516 527 528
Germany–506 509 509
UK–492 498 509



India opted out of PISA , but good news is that India, decided to re-enter– but not before 2021.  World Bank’s senior Director recommends that Indian education system needs to shift focus from quantity to quality, and also learn from other countries. In this background, it is not difficult  to understand why our educated people flaunt degrees, but incapable to deliver goods useful to societies, society is full with anomalies  and irreguletaries like corruption, ill health , and low life indicators . Developed societies scores higher at PISA. It is natural with this background, that even in job-life, system is filled with quantity at the cost of quality, workers are essentially judged excellent, good, very good etc based on the dry quantity in the system– net effect is that quantity only is propagated because that is only is understood by the system.

Today’s school students is tomorrow’s Doctors, Engineers, Administrators etc. It is now understandable why only minuscule percentage of our engineers are employable and the rest is not. A few years ago, a McKinsey report said just a quarter of engineers in India were employable. Of late, some other studies put it less than 20%. More recently, a survey by an  employ-ability assessment firm, Aspiring Minds, said 95% of Indian engineers can’t code. Doctors are no better only huge scarcity for medical personnel hide their inefficiencies but we have to lap up whatever we get for absence of anything better. Same is the condition in other fields too. It is not difficult to understand why our society is rotting with corruption, ill health and  and many other ills and evils… cite an example to show the importance of quality education, we may quote an example from the tiny country Israel. When Yitzak Rabin, its former prime minister, was visiting China in 1993, he was asked: ” How has a tiny nation like yours, which is severely short of resources, managed to become global technology leader? Rabin’s reply was : ” Because we have seven world-class universities”

Only talking will not do, we need to revamp out education. After much talk, It looks some semblance of reawakening is taking place. Apart from skilling India, there is a talk of developing some twenty universities of world class standard. Further, India will introduce National Assessment survey—NAS, starting from 2017, assessment will be done right from District level. This improvement will not happen automatically, there require huge investment in education. Percentage of expenditure on education fell to 3.65% of GDP in 2016-17  from 4.57% in 2013-14 , with a minor uptick to 3.71% in coming year. Much more investment is required. Improvement won’t   happen in the empty.

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After 2000, students intake at primary level increased but there is no learning. Main problem is quality of teachers, same has to be improved, they have to be properly trained, necessary infrastructure like buildings equipped with proper toilets ( girls drop out because of lack of facility of toilets ), and tools for education should be arranged, presently all they have a blackboard and some worn out furniture. Best quality teacher is to be recruited and they have to be highly paid. An unsatisfied teacher cannot teach.  There is a single teacher teaching several subjects, they also have to serve local political masters, and naturally, there is a chronic absenteeism problem which looks irreparable. In this presently available facility/ environment better education is not possible. We need a cultural change.

One thing often comes to my mind that in the days of freedom struggle against the British, all our freedom fighters were foreign educated. If home grown education do not serve us well now ( it is doubtful if ever it will rise from abysmal present depth ), foreign educated patriotic Indians have to be brought in to finish our unfinished task ie economic and social liberation of Indians at home. LONG LIVE INDIA—FROM A TRUE PATRIOT.


Author: Your useful Books.

An online seller of books. Lives in Mumbai and Kolkata.