Education, here and there.

There is a reason I don’t write on topics close to my heart, these days. Once I start, I don’t seem to stop. Or so says the husband, and can’t really blame him. I do tend to go on and on.

So I was talking about teachers and schools yesterday. I’ve been asked many a time about how the schools in India and abroad compare. I can’t talk about other places, the only place I have some experience in is the UK. So here is what I found. It might be limited to the circle I moved in, or even the city, probably. Education is one area where I do feel, quite definitely, that we are better off in the UK. Here is why.

1. Focus on Reading – In India, I found that the focus was far more on the writing than reading. Children in daughter’s class(Grade 1), were still struggling with reading. Apparently during the tests, the teachers would read out the questions so that the children knew what to write. In the UK, I found that the focus was mainly on the reading. They get library books, reading books, and there is a systematic program that measures what level each child is at, and the minimum levels for each year. So most children at the same age in the UK, would be reading at a far more comfortable level. And I think it makes sense. Unless the child can read, how can he/she understand? And despite the fact that so many children couldn’t read, there was no focus on that in the school in India. My friend was trying hard at home to teach her six year old to read, when really, this should have been the first target of a school.

2. Methodology of teaching – In most of the subjects, what I found was that the teachers of my daughter’s school in India still followed the old method of writing on the blackboard and getting the children to take it down. Here it is very different. It is a lot more interactive and children seem to remember their lessons better. I’ve had several instances of daughter coming home and telling in great detail of the things she learnt. Learning was/is fun for her.

3. Student teacher ratio. There is a government specified teacher-student ratio here that all schools have to follow. I wish it were there in India.

4. Different learner levels. I really like this concept in schools here. Children are grouped together based on their abilities and then pushed and encouraged in a way that suits their abilities. This is of course possible only because of small class sizes and teaching assistants to help.

5. Interactive learning. There is a lot of interaction between the children and the teachers. There is also a lot of opportunities for parents to see how classes are conducted and for us to understand how concepts are introduced to the children and for us to teach them at home.

6. Accessible Management. Daughter’s school in India had a very accessible management. And from what I heard that was not common. Here on the other hand, all the schools, that she has been to, have had really accessible management. In her old school, the head teacher would be dusting snow off children’s boots when it snowed. Her head teacher here, was acting as the lollipop man, because the lollipop lady was late. We can go and talk to them anytime. And they do seem to know most of students by name. Of course, the fact that the schools are smaller, must help.

7. Exams. There are no exams here. Daughter had exams on India and she did fine. I’m not sure yet of the merits and demerits of exams. I guess, you do need some form of progress tracker. Are the exams necessarily the right kind, I don’t really know. What do you guys think?

How do you feel about the education system in India?

I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words 1st – 7th September 2013. Hop over to see more Day 6 posts.

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14 thoughts on “Education, here and there.

  1. Ah, a subject close to my heart , remember the number of discussions we had on this ? 🙂
    Except for 6, we are happy with their current school. how long it will be affordable is another question altogether 😦
    But yes, it does really make a difference when learning is a joyous experience for the kids

  2. I think schools in India are too focused on marks and exams…the opportunity for children to really explore different subjects and pick up things that interest them instead of being confined to specific “streams” is extremely rare. I wish that would change…

  3. I feel the aim of education is to provide well groomed, well read and exposed young minds. I think education in India is really good but reforms needed. We nee to get away with too much exams oriented. uk also has a very good education system.

  4. recently as part of exchange program some UK students had come visiting office. And all the points that you have mentioned were discussed with us as well. Especially the different ability groups one, it intrigued all of us 🙂

    Richa

  5. Very interesting points Smitha! Our education system does need a fresh approach especially in terms of doing away with rote learning, encouraging skills development and doing away with so many exams as an evaluation method

  6. Competition, competition! Back in India, the exam system and grades are norm-referenced – where the learning is measured in comparison to that of their peers. The child is given a rank, so if it’s a good number then it appears that the child is doing fine; which may not necessarily be the case. Whereas here I find the tests and assessments are criterion referenced- where they check whether the child has met the requirements as given in the curriculum.
    What do you think?

  7. Absolutely.
    There needs to be an overhauling of the general education system in India.
    I feel exams are a necessary evil . or else kids when they grow up may not know how to tackle. Yes there should not be any pressure by parents at least on getting full marks but some sort of ‘tests’ are needed.
    Just my viewpoint
    Now with CCE I just find myself googling, images, taking printouts and then cutting and pasting 😀

  8. On point #7:
    Article from NYT:
    Taking a test works better than a number of other studying techniques in helping us to learn. By remembering information we are organizing it and creating cues and connections that our brains later recognize. “I think that learning is all about retrieving, all about reconstructing our knowledge”.

    But on the subject of ‘taking a test’, often, self-quizzing is more effective than a nerve-wracking ‘final exam’. Article from Live Science:
    Researchers say they’ve pinpointed the two best ways to prepare for a test: spreading out the studying over time and self-quizzing before the big day. Surprisingly, other common methods, such as rereading and highlighting, get low marks when it comes to effectiveness, researchers say.

    Of course, nothing can be more harmful than information over-load at an early stage, as is happening these days.. information ≠ knowledge

  9. The education system has undergone a sea change in the last few years. There is no home work for the kids upto class 5. The children are not required to carry any bag full of books home. Teaching is now interactive. In senior classes also. The emphasis on creativity. It will take time for the parents to accept the new system.

  10. I see some shift happening in the education system… Less focus on rigor and more on exploration..thats how we should be moving…The rat race of marks needs to stop

  11. Loved loved loved this post Smitha…you have just hit the nail on the head so so correctly! I wish, so wish that R’s school was so good..unfortunately she studies in a school which has emphasis on writing, despite the fact that she cant read, it has 42 students in one class, its admin is absolutely inaccessible especially to working parents…I could just go on..sigh!

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