In an attempt to improve learning outcomes, the Odisha government announced on Tuesday that it would double the classroom teaching time of three subjects — English, Mathematics and Science — in all state-run schools from the existing 45 minutes to 90 minutes.
Speaking to reporters, School and Mass Education Minister Samir Ranjan Dash said the decision was taken after reviewing the performance of students in these subjects.
“…in subjects like English, Science and Math, the performance is a bit weak. To focus more on these subjects, we have decided to double the teaching time of these subjects,” he said.
“That means routines will be prepared in such a way that while other subjects will get 45 minutes of teaching time (daily), these three subjects will get one-and-half hours,” he said.
“It is natural then that students will spend more time on these subjects, interact more with these teachers and get time to clear their fundamentals,” Dash said.
Education experts, however, said the move may not have the desired results. “We need to be very careful about children’s attention span. Doubling the time may not be learning friendly,” Binay Pattanayak, a former education specialist with UNICEF, said.
“From the learner’s perspective, the text of these subjects needs to be interesting and activity oriented. Teacher’s preparation needs to be geared towards children’s learning,” he said.
Other experts pointed to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2018 on learning outcomes in rural Odisha, which showed inter-district disparities in reading and Math skills. For example, in Rayagada, only 5.4% children in Classes VI-VIII could do division, while just over 40% could read a Class II-level text. In Puri, 48.8% could do division, while over 80% could read the same text.
“The problem is somewhere, and the solution lies elsewhere. Learning outcomes in Odisha can be linked to absentee teachers and a variety of other factors. The minister has not consulted experts before making such an announcement,” said Anil Pradhan, convenor of Odisha RTE forum.
“From the administrator’s point of view, it is easy to control time. So an order has been passed to double teaching hours. However, the state government is not bothered about the more pressing issue of space. Many of Odisha’s government schools do not have the required infrastructure like library, playground, toilets, that enable a learning environment,” said educationist Jatindra Kumar Nayak.
Nayak also drew attention to the large number of vacancies in teaching posts in state schools.