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Indian schools dwarfed in global ratings programme

Tamil Nadu,Himachal mark country’s debut in PISA,finish near bottom of international list

Written by Anubhuti Vishnoi | New Delhi |
December 21, 2011 2:43:22 am

India may have notched up high enrolments to school riding the success of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the Midday Meal scheme,but the quality of education being imparted has proved far below average in an international rating system for schools from 74 economies.

India’s debut at the prestigious Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) saw some 16,000 15-year-olds from schools in Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu taking part. They ranked near the bottom in all categories,outscoring only Kyrgyzstan.

PISA,introduced by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation Development (OCED),is an internationally standardised assessment that tests 15-year-olds in the domains of reading,mathematical science and science literacy. PISA 2009 was originally held with 64 economies,after which 10 more participated in PISA 2009+. The PISA report released last week includes the scores of all 74.

While schools of South Korea and Finland scored high as usual,China took the ratings by storm when debutant Shanghai schools topped the rankings.

With institutes of higher education in India having hardly made a mark in international assessments such as the Times QS rankings,the HRD Ministry had decided to participate in the PISA 2009+ hoping Indian schools would do well there.

The PISA report,however,points out that “the average reading literacy score for Himachal Pradesh-India was the lowest average reading score observed in PISA 2009 and PISA 2009+,along with that of Kyrgyzstan”. It adds that “ Himachal Pradesh-India’s students were estimated to have an average score on the scientific literacy scale,which is below the means of all OECD countries. This was the lowest average science score observed in PISA 2009 and PISA 2009+,along with that of Kyrgyzstan”.

Tamil Nadu,often lauded for its work in the education sector,has done only marginally better than Himachal Pradesh and ranks below the average OECD score on all counts. The report says,“Students in Tamil Nadu-India were estimated to have a mean score on the scientific literacy scale,which is below the means of all OECD countries,but significantly above the mean observed in the other Indian state,Himachal Pradesh…

“The mean performance of students in Tamil Nadu-India was not significantly different to those of students in Panama and Peru. The mean performance of students in Himachal Pradesh-India was statistically the same as that of students in Kyrgyzstan,” notes the report,released by the Australian Council for Educational Research.

The poor performance on learning abilities,however,should not be that surprising. Independent assessments within the country have repeatedly emphasised poor learning abilities. The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) brought out annually by the NGO Pratham is one such assessment. The 2010 report noted that overall,after five years of schooling,close to 50 per cent of children are at a level lower than what is expected after two years in school. It had revealed that across the country,the ability of children to deal with elementary arithmetic has declined. A large percentage of middle school children struggled in their everyday dealings with numbers,such as reading a calendar,estimating volume or calculating area and so on.

PISA assessments first started in 2000 but India participated for the first time in PISA 2009+,with the 16,000 students drawn from some 400 schools across the two states. The 10 participants in PISA 2009+ were assessed in 2010. PISA 2009+ involved over 46,000 students across these 10 economies,representing a total of about 1,377,000 15-year-olds.

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