Soon after announcing the 5T (Transparency, Teamwork, Technology, Time and Transformation) action plan for higher education, the Odisha government has announced that it will double the teaching hours for certain subjects in schools. The decision has been met with a mixed response. Sampad Patnaik talks to Samir Ranjan Dash, Minister for School and Mass Education, Government of Odisha to understand the motivation behind the move.
Odisha government has decided to double the teaching hours for three subjects — Maths, English and Science, expecting to positively impact learning outcomes. Is this decision the result of some expert recommendation, academic study or successful experiment in some other state or country?
I have not gone into whether it is the first in the country or not. However, we are focusing on “result analysis” in the school and mass education department. My thoughts, after a detailed analysis of school results, are that 70 to 90 per cent students struggle with these three subjects. The extension of teaching time is an outcome of this analysis. We will also monitor how this works on the ground.
Educationists in Odisha have by and large disapproved of the decision. They say that how these subjects are taught is more important than for how long they are taught. They recommend activity-based learning, more engaging textbooks and better teacher preparation. Are they right?
The recommendation of educationists to focus on the way textbooks are written is correct. However, such changes will take some time. When I go on spot visits, I have also found that students are not too keen on (reading) their textbooks.
As for teacher preparation, which is also important, we are (in the process of) deciding how to reward good teachers and focus on improving teachers who can do better in the classroom. An incentive system for good teachers under the Chief Minister’s 5T vision has been proposed.
Educationists also express concern that school children cannot be expected to maintain an attention span of over 45 minutes, especially for challenging subjects such as Maths and Science. Is that concern valid?
We are cognisant of these matters. Not just that, we are also thinking if a teacher can be expected to teach for 90 minutes at a stretch. Therefore, we will change the pattern of result analysis from a state-wide framework to area-wise framework. Under this, we will get to monitor and study those pockets, where the result in the three subjects is not up to the mark and assess how the policy impacted better learning for students. We are considering breaking up one 90-minute-long maths class into two periods.
Last year’s Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) for Odisha showed wide inter-district disparities with regard to reading and maths skills of students. How can the learning outcome of a school child in Rayagada district be brought up to par with the peers in Khordha and Puri districts?
Odisha is already implementing Utthan scheme (under the state’s Learning Enhancement Programme).
The objective of this programme is to ensure that all students in the same class have acquired grade-appropriate competence before they are taught the advanced topics in their syllabus. A Rayagada student will be brought up to par with peers in Khordha and Puri.
Odisha is reported to have 8,498 and 2,417 vacancies in posts of teachers and headmasters, respectively. When will the government be filling all these posts?
Our teacher-student ratio, which is at 20.92, is better than the national average. However, the process of hiring is underway.