NATIONAL COUNCIL OF EDUCATIONAL
RESEARCH AND TRAINING
FIFTH INTERNATIONAL SEMINAR
RESEARCHES IN SCHOOL EFFECITVENESS
AT PRIMARY STAGE
CHARMAN AUROVLLE FOUNDATION at 10.00 A.M.
JULY 14, 1999
CONFERENCE HALL 'E' VIGYAN BHAWAN ANNEXE MAULANA AZAD ROAD, NEW DELHI
The present Seminar marks, in a sense, culmination of the four earlier seminars organised by the National Council of Educational Research and Training under the aegis of the Government of India sponsored District Primary Education Programme. As a result, we are now able to collect together the various threads of thoughts and results of research, which are now available to us. The significance of these seminars was enhanced by the fact that they were all international, and representatives of various countries have participated and made valuable contributions. Even though educational scenarios vary from country to country and region to region, one indisputable concern everywhere is that every child in the world must have access to education and that every child gets the benefit of effective process of teaching and learning. That the child should be at the centre of social concerns is now acknowledged universally, and educational policies underline the theme of Education for All. I am sure that we all agree that the education pyramid can have unshakeable foundation only if primary education gets the highest priority and receives all the necessary resources, ‒ academic and financial, ‒ so that school effectiveness at the primary stage achieves higher and higher peaks of excellence.
It was thoughtful of the NCERT to have organised, as a prerequisite to this international seminar, three regional seminars at Bhopal, Bhubaneswar and Mysore. Many of the papers, which were presented at these seminars will also be presented before us here. Papers have also been received from countries like Iran, Japan, Netherlands, Sri Lanka and Uganda. These papers cover a wide spectrum of subjects that highlight various instructive experiments, which have been conducted in different parts of India as also elsewhere. They will also bring to our attention several specific programmes, how they have been conducted and what we can learn from them. Considering that they reflect mature ability of critical appreciation and evaluation, we can look forward in this Seminar to sessions of instructive enrichment, fruitful dialogue, and implementable recommendations. I should like to congratulate the organisers of this Seminar for having provided to us this extremely useful opportunity to dwell upon our concern for children and their education.
In India, we have been striving to increase allocations to primary education, and we notice that sixty five per cent of the plan allocation for the year 1999-2000 has been earmarked for elementary education. A new initiative has been envisaged for participation of the girl child. Allocation to operation black board has been enhanced from Rs.304 crores to Rs.400 crores and allocation to DPEP has been increased from Rs.727 crores to Rs.754 crores. A sum of Rs.160 crores has been assigned to the national strategy for participation of girls and there has been an upward revision of the existing schemes and also for upgrading infrastructural facilities. Out of the plan allocation for education for the ninth five year plan, which amounts to Rs.20381 crores, Rs.7937 crores is allotted to primary education alone, and the programme for universalisation of elementary education has received the allocation of Rs.3035 crores. These are significant figures, and it is also significant that to non-formal education, which is indispensable for effective primary education in our country, Rs.350 crores have been allocated.
But we all know that mere financial allocations cannot deliver the goods. Central factors that determine the success of educational programmes are related to quality of teachers, quality of teaching-learning materials, and quality of the strategies of addressing varieties of target groups which present specific needs and require specific solutions.
In India, like many other developing countries, we find that a large number of children are first-generation learners and the usual teaching-learning materials, which have been standardised for urban children or for third or fourth generation learners are simply irrelevant. Again, we have problem of retaining children in the school system, and we have as yet no ready solution for this and allied problems. It is the painful fact that out of about twenty one crore children in India, only five or six crores complete elementary education, and a very large number of others drop out at earlier stages of primary education. In many countries of the world, this kind of problem does not exist, but still wherever it exists, it is imperative that effective solutions are suggested and effective strategies are evolved and implemented. This is where researches in school effectiveness at primary stage occupy central significance.
It is often argued that our immediate problems are so pressing that we need to take urgent steps to meet them and that in the context of this urgent need we should follow the established and orthodox means and methods of education. In other words, it is implied that radical researches, discoveries and inventions should not be allowed to distract us from following the beaten path. We are, therefore, counselled that what we need to do is to multiply the usual classroom teaching, and that if research is to be conducted, we should limit our research programmes only to augment effectiveness of the usual classroom teaching.
Fortunately, this view is no more shared by those who are engaged in research at the frontline of education. As a result, it is possible for us to feel free to be liberated from the beaten tracks of education, and many researches in the new path may enable us to design new strategies that will ultimately be found to be more practicable and more favourable to the fulfilment of the goals that we have in view, including those of universalisation of primary and elementary education.
In India, we have been thinking of non-formal education at the primary level, and although we do not have as yet a nation-wide and extensive major programme of non-formal education, we have developed a programme during the last few decades on the basis of which a new strategy can be evolved and proposed so as to meet the needs of primary education of large masses of children who live in remote villages, hamlets and even in towns where access to formal education is not easy or adequate. In fact, it appears that non-formal education could ultimately prove to be the real effective answer, and it is also to be seen that it is through non-formal education that we can introduce more dynamic methods of education. And this opens up a vast area of research.
In the ultimate analysis, it seems that we shall have to create a large scheme of non-formal education in the country so that we can meet at least four or five requirements that are central to effectiveness of primary education. One of these requirements is related to wide variations among target-groups, which cannot all be given uniform pattern of curriculum, teaching-learning materials and orthodox timings of attendance and mechanical methods of teaching and learning. The second requirement arises from those teachers who are directly suitable to the conditions and environments in which they have to teach. Stereotype training of teachers here would be irrelevant, and special courses of training have to be designed, which would be useful to the programmes of non-formal education. The third requirement arises from the fact that children at the primary level get interested in education by means of pressures of environmental influences, and it is noticed that urban influences, which strengthen motivation for primary education are not available in rural and remote areas. The fourth requirement is related to the formal system of education, since even where it is widespread, it has not prevented large dropout rates. This means that the formal system of education needs to undergo a great change so as to make it more non-formal and even informal. Promotion of interest in studies is the heart of effectiveness of primary education, and it cannot be said that this interest is created or sustained through the orthodox and conservative system of education. Finally, it may be argued that not only at the higher levels of education, but even at the lower levels of education, the open system of education will be found to be more and more effective. Futurists can see quite clearly that a huge revolution is waiting to break out in the field of education all over the world, and in the tide of that revolution, we shall all be required to shift away from conservatism to progress, from the old and the obsolete to the new, from mechanical handling of children to organic and dynamic living methods of education.
This means that our researches need to have a threefold focus: (1) promotion of non-formal education at the primary levels, ‒ even at the kindergarten level, which is greatly neglected; (2) teaching and learning in the non-formal setting so as to determine and provide conditions and capabilities that would enhance the effectiveness of non-formal system of primary and kindergarten education; (3) production of teaching and learning materials that can be effectively used in the non- formal setting and which can eventually be used also in the formal setting. It may also be added that efforts need to be promoted all over the country whereby informal education is also encouraged and brought to higher levels of effectivity.
Let us reflect on the goals of primary education and their impact on problems relating to effectiveness of primary education.
The goals of primary education are closely related to the goals of elementary education. Since elementary education is the first terminal point of the educational ladder, it may be observed that it is natural that a large number of students will leave the cadre of education at that very terminal point. This means that elementary education ought to provide to each student three important abilities arising from: (a) adequate training of the heart, head and hand that would aid in the flowering of intelligence, power of imagination, and skills to utilise elementary tools that are used for productive and creative work; (b) adequate understanding of the environment, knowledge of the preservation of health, and development of the habits that would keep the body strong and fit, and responsible understanding of basic duties; and (c) adequate capacity to practise virtues coupled with elementary science and art of learning to learn so that continuing education could be possible and practised.
What is suggested above is quite remote from what is being proposed in our scheme of education in India. Our curriculum envisages class X as a first terminal point, and the entire curriculum is geared to securing the requirements of class X. Options are given after Class X, and vocationalisation is also provided for in Classes XI to XII. Experience has shown that this scheme has not worked well; there is a large-scale dropout at class eight, and vocational education has hardly flourished.
There is also an important point to be taken into account in determining what should be the first terminal point in our educational scheme. As we all know, our Constitution has laid down that the State shall provide free and compulsory education up to the age of fourteen years, and it may be suggested that the age fourteen corresponds to class eight. The implications of this Constitutional provision is that we should so conceive our educational scheme that, by the age of fourteen, every child should receive such adequate training that would make him or her employable, in addition to possessing basic development of character and such skills that enable him or her to learn farther by the virtue of skills of self-learning. If such ought to be goals of the courses of elementary education, curriculum for primary education should be so designed that by the end of class four or five, children are sufficiently enthused to continue to study farther at least up to the end of class eight.
From this point of view, it may be suggested that primary education should achieve three minimum goals: (a) adequate ability to read and write and sufficient capacity to do mental calculations in regard to arithmetical operations; (b) development of various other faculties, ‒ capacities of comprehension, abilities of creative work and skills of productive work; and in respect of components of these capacities there should be no compulsion but a good deal of freedom and, therefore, correspondingly availability in the schools facilities and opportunities to exercise this freedom under the guidance of the teacher; and (c) development of sense of wonder and curiosity and enthusiasm to learn more and more and to develop some mastery in respect of a few items of creative and productive work.
It may also be mentioned that the foundations of value-education are best laid in childhood and, therefore, primary education should have a component of value-oriented education.
There is another important problem, which is rather special in the context of continuity of Indian history of the last five thousand years. No student in any other part of the world is required to absorb the lessons of such a long and continuous story of multisided development. Our researchers have not sufficiently looked into this problem, and we have no case studies to suggest any experiments conducted so far as to how interesting parts of our long history can be effectively imparted to the children at primary level. Indian history is closely connected with Indian geography, and this aspect also needs to be inquired into in the context of the pedagogy of teaching history and geography. At the lower levels of education, it is often suggested, and quite rightly, that history and geography can be best taught through stories; but we do not have any evidence of sufficient mass of research work done in this respect. We should have at least a hundred good stories specially addressed to the target groups of primary education which can hold the attention of the children and which can induce in them love and admiration for the great builders of the Indian cultural edifice.
One of the reasons why primary education suffers in terms of ineffectiveness is the inadequacy of our reading material, not only in respect of historical stories but even in respect of stories which can be considered to be of great importance in terms of lessons of life, which have great bearing on the formation of character and personality. In fact, we need to create a new curricular framework, which would clarify the areas in respect of which suitable stories can be collected and in regard to which pictorial books could be brought out in a very large number so that they can easily be made available to children, their parents and their teachers.
We have, for instance, satyam eva jayate as the basic motto of the Indian Republic. But do we have a collection of stories where ideal of truth is illustrated? Have we collected stories of the great men and women who have sacrificed everything for the sake of the truth? We speak of perfection as one of the ideals of life; hence, we need to collect stories to illustrate, at the minimum, the proposition that whatever one wants to do, one should do it as perfectly as possible. Similarly, we should have a collection of stories illustrating the qualities of courage, heroism, harmony and illumination, nobility, equanimity, self- control, endurance, perseverance, obedience, humility, tolerance, straightforwardness, honesty, disinterestedness, generosity, self-giving, faithfulness, devotion, sincerity and gratitude.
We also need to propose a special research programme, the aim of which should be to produce such materials that could be exhibited easily by teachers in their classrooms, so as to highlight noble aspirations and thoughts and number of inspiring stories. These exhibition materials could also centre on such topics that would stimulate exercises in observation and accurate descriptions of such things as leaves, plants, flowers, minerals, birds, animals, figures, scenes, buildings, objects, events, etc. There could also be exhibition materials relating to simple activities like art of bathing, art of cleaning teeth, art of dressing, art of sitting and standing with right postures, etc.
Similar materials might also be collected and presented to the students that could develop the sense of wonder; examples could be taken from astronomy, from physics, from chemistry and from other sciences. Mere presentation of the idea of galaxies and expanding universe could fill the minds of students with great amazement; presentation of the working of the human body could incite in the children's minds great curiosity to understand its excellence and its mystery. Question as to what is matter behind what we see and what we touch could also be a subject that would produce a great sense of wonder. The examples such as those of caterpillar becoming a butterfly and other examples of mutations could create in the minds of children great interest in biology and in the theory of evolution. We could also create exhibition materials in respect of senses of knowledge and senses of action and we could even introduce subjects like inner senses and capacities to see the invisible and to hear the inaudible.
We should also collect beautiful artistic photographs and paintings and distribute them all over the country under a massive programme of encouraging and developing aesthetic sense. Albums of music can also be prepared so as to enable teachers to use them as means of encouraging interests in music and in learning music.
May I suggest that all these and similar ideas need to be taken into account while determining areas of research relating to school effectiveness at primary stage.
We may now come to those areas of research which require profounder expertise.
Discovery of the child, which began in modern times with Rousseau, Montessori, and Pestalozzi can be looked upon as a momentous step in the development of what can be called new education, and which has been spreading, in spite of heavy resistance from conservatism, so that the society may sooner than later acknowledge the sovereignty of the child. In ancient India, the sovereignty of the child can easily be detected from the fact that the entire social system was so designed that it aimed at enjoining upon the ripest and wisest Rishis to establish their ashrams, where children can be educated and cultivated under their exclusive and direct supervision and guidance until they attained the youthful age when age responsibilities of adult life could be undertaken. Although the system developed from those early stages was sustained for a very long period with various kinds of modifications over several millennia, it came to be broken down during the last one thousand years and almost disappeared during the British rule. But the pedagogy that was developed in early times in India to serve the theme of the sovereignty of the child, can be seen to be returning upon the entire humanity as a result of the impact of the modern and Western discovery of the child.
This discovery has led to the formation of a new aim of education that insists on bringing out of the child's own intellectual and moral capacities to their highest possible value and of requiring education to be based on the psychology of the child. In a still progressive trend of thought, it is now realised that each child is a self-developing soul and that the business of both parents and teachers is to enable the child to educate himself, to develop his own intellectual, moral, aesthetic and practical capacities and to grow freely as an organic being, not to be kneaded and pressurised into forms like an inert plastic material. A farther step is to realise that this soul has profundity and that our task is to help the child to find its deeper self, the real psychic entity within, of which we hear so much in the ancient Upanishads. We shall then find that if we ever give it a chance to come forward, and still more if we call it into the foreground as the leader of the march set in our front, it will itself take most of the business of education out of our hands and develop the inherent capacity of the psychological being towards self-education and self-realisation of its potentialities. But already, the new educational methods which are being developed are on the straight way to the truer dealing.
When we speak today of child-centred education, we have to realise that our attention has to be focussed not merely on the outer surfaces of the growing child, but on the inner soul, which is struggling to master the subjective and the objective circumstances. And once we focus upon this central truth of the child, a new pedagogy will have to emerge which will be or can be made so universal that the usual controversies arising from rigid curricula and mechanical methods of education will no more remain central, and we shall be engaged in developing new concerns and new methods that will address not only to the body, life and mind of the child, but also to the soul as the leader of the instruments and capacities of body, life and mind. It is against this background that we shall realise the true significance of the message of UNESECO, when it speaks of Learning to Be and of Learning: the Treasure Within.
The first issue here for research is connected with the need to make a continuous discovery of the child.
We have to realise that this continuous discovery of the child should ultimately bring about the building up of bridges of trust between the teacher and the child as also between and parents and the child. Healthy development of the child depends upon the degree with which the child looks upon the teacher and the parents with trust and confidence. Fortunately, children have a natural trust in their teachers and parents; but we have to learn that this natural trust is very delicate and has to be nurtured with great care and patience. A child may have inclination for art, music and dance, but if this inclination is not understood and nurtured or appreciated in the right way, the bond of trust can easily snap, and this may adversely affect the entire fabric of motivation towards learning. Children may come to be scolded by teachers and parents in regard to those very faults, which they themselves commit, and this again has a very adverse effect on the tender minds of the children.
Children are often excessive in their enthusiasm and their depressions; — parents and teachers who do not understand this simple fact may so react as to dampen their enthusiasm or lead them to a permanent sense of inferiority. How to encourage a child to develop hope and aspiration when inflicted by depression and how to channelise excessive enthusiasm into balanced modes of motivation and behaviour is one of the difficult elements of the art that the teachers and parents have to learn. How to be gentle and yet firm, how to allow freedom and yet instil self-discipline, how to readjust our own interests in response to needs of the growth of children placed under our trust, — this is another article of art of life that teachers and parents have to learn.
All these and allied matters need to be made subjects of research, since they have direct bearing on effectiveness of schooling, — whether formal, non-formal or informal.
There are children who are reasonable, there are children who are rebellious, and there are children who are passive and even inactive or inert. There are many further variations and combinations, and teachers and parents have to understand more and more precisely the strengths and weaknesses of their children. Reasonable children can be placed on the right road more easily when they are given opportunities to expound their ideas or arguments and when they are exposed to better ideas and arguments; rebellious children have often excessive energy and they can often be corrected by showing to them how the truth behind their rebellion is understood and implemented by us; very often they have a very high sense of personal dignity, and they can be turned to channelise their energy in the right direction, if we can make the right appeal to their sense of dignity. Again, children who are passive or inert should not be scolded or goaded into activities by exhortation or by punishment; very often they have natural physical deficiency in respect of stamina and vitality; even the real sloth of the children can be overcome if we can provide to them activities in which their interest can be invoked; in any case, none of the difficulties of growth can last, if teachers and parents can give to their children an assurance that they are not neglected or ignored, that in their journey of growth, teachers and parents are their companions.
Many children are naturally inclined to pursue the path of heroism and courage; they are natural lovers of adventure, and they want to break the limitations, which are inherent in their infancy or which are results of their upbringing. On the other hand, many teachers and parents are timid and they are afraid of the risks of adventure. Here, conflicts can be quite serious, but these conflicts can be overcome if teachers and parents can shake off their timidity and decide to move forward hand in hand with their children in activities of adventure. Personal participation in adventure will give them also the opportunity to prevent their children from becoming foolhardy and to exercise prudence and to follow rules of safety where they are indispensable.
There are number of children who are by nature contemplative, who often seem to be on the surface to be inert or idle; they are often misunderstood by teachers and parents who can only appreciate those children who are smart, clever or even cunning. The resultant conflicts can again be very serious, and they can be overcome only if teachers and parents understand that contemplation is a very high philosophic, scientific and spiritual quality, and that this quality, if possessed by their children, needs to be rated very high and nurtured with great care and appreciation.
Truth, beauty and goodness, ─ these three great qualities which go a long way to build up the character and personality of the child, ‒ are more commonly present in the natural composition of the children than what is normally suspected or expected. The more we ourselves tune to these qualities, the more we shall be able to detect them in our children; and this will give us great opportunity to create circumstances, ‒ formal, non-formal and informal, ‒ through which these qualities can be strengthened and developed towards their higher and higher peaks of excellence.
These and similar insights into the psychology of child development are indispensable, if we want to make a process of children's development effective.
There should be massive movement in the country and in the world, which should declare three important messages: (1) Please understand your children; (2) Do not scold children for the faults which you yourself commit; (3) Establish in your life and in the life of the society the sovereignty of the child to such an extent that nothing is done by adults at home or in society, which will injure child's trust, child's enthusiasm and child's appreciation of Truth, Beauty and Goodness.
But all this needs to be supported by research and experimentation.
It can also be suggested that we need to institute fresh research relating to pre-service and in-service programmes of teachers' training. And the very first idea that presents itself is that if the development of integral personality is the basic aim of all education, it should be the first requisite of the system that all teachers themselves have some essential orientation in respect of integral development personality. If this idea is inquired into by competent researchers, we shall be able to come up with valuable suggestions that would revolutionise our teachers' training programmes.
We shall, of course, be confronted with a number of resistances, but considering that a well-trained army of teachers is indispensable, we shall be able to overcome these resistances. Every teacher, for instance, will need to have sound physical fitness and adequate stamina to take part in various activities of physical education. If example is the most effective means of education, there is no better way to inspire children to undertake physical education seriously than to have teachers who are themselves strong and healthy in their bodies and who have interest and capacity to play games with their children.
Similarly, teachers' training programmes should also have provision for adequate training in value-oriented education.
This is a very vast subject, but when one studies it, one feels convinced that this aspect of education cannot be developed meaningfully unless we develop important projects of research. Moreover, this programme of research should be conducted with the help of the best teachers of the country. Unfortunately, it is not sufficiently realised that child education is the most difficult area of education, and that the development of this area will require inputs from the best and the wisest teachers and leaders of the society.
Again, teachers' training should have an important component of mental development. What has happened in the past is that we have encouraged research into how to teach various subjects of studies, but we have not paid adequate attention to research in how mental faculties develop, particularly during the childhood. We speak of Piaget with great admiration, but we have not taken enough lead from his work. In our teachers' training programmes, we should bring to the teachers' attention both Indian and Western studies in respect of the development of faculties of observation, logical and methodical thinking, imagination, inspiration, perception, discrimination, normative thought and action, and creative appreciation and enjoyment. We should collect dialogues of eminent educationists of these studies, and they could constitute a very interesting programme of training of teachers.
Art of telling stories is also very important subject of research, and considering that stories play a dominant role in primary education, we should provide adequate training to teachers in the art of telling stories, which could include various aspects of accent, pronunciation, various modes of inotation, recitation, play of words, play of ideas, and various gestures for delineating characters.
The teacher at the primary level is not a specialist, but he needs to have such all-round training that he or she can deal with various aspects of education competently. Our attention should be focussed upon those elements of education which have so far remained neglected but which are of central significance. It is in this context that we need to underline themes of research relating to integral development of personality, value-orientation and artistic abilities, physical fitness, and skills to organise exhibitions, presentation of pictorial books and recitation and art of telling stories, etc.
There are many other relevant topics that need to be considered. But the leaders of research who are present here have dealt with several of them in their learned papers. And I feel certain that this Seminar will stimulate a new programme of research relating to Primary Education.
May I add that I have felt greatly enriched by the opportunity that has been given to me to be present at this occasion, and I cannot thank you all enough for this.
Let me also extend my special greetings to the learned friends who have taken the trouble to come here from distant lands and brought with them lessons of their experience and experimentation.
With these words, I have great happiness in inaugurating this Seminar.