Less Conversation, More Action

Music has always been more fascinating for me than anything else. It always wires my mind for enhanced performance. The inherent messages of life, woven in the lyrics and translated through music, stuck in my mind quite often to find a way forward whenever required. I am looking for my higher education in some liberal arts university in the United States of America simply because education, as it stands for, should liberate the soul and mind of the Individual and transform the lives of fellow humans positively. It was very much in practice in ancient times in India and one can find such references in our ancient literature.

But we lost the way in between forever and never recovered. So what ails the Indian Education system and what is the need of the hour to bring it back on track. Again, the music and the beautiful lines from one of the songs of Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll, stuck in my mind — “A little less conversation, a little more action, please.” When it comes to improving learning outcomes in India, we have no time to waste. No time for conference speakers to drone on, no time for research that only produces another report on poor learning levels in the country, and no time to complain about how accountability systems and processes are broken. Innumerable children are not learning and every moment that we don’t act is a moment wasted in a child’s life.

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We also need to act in ways that will focus on improving learning. While there has been an increase in education spending over the last five years, learning outcomes have been poor and have been declining. First, we need clear examples of what good quality education looks like. There aren’t enough real cases that demonstrate what good quality education means for every child in the classroom and raise the bar for what our education system should deliver. My litmus test for this is my own eight-year-old sister. When I evaluate the performance of the schools from where I am graduated, I find them purely academic and therefore, I constantly ask myself whether I would send my sister to the schools.

If the answer is yes, I know I am not honest. If I’m not sure, surely we need to do something better and innovative. Second, we need to focus on classroom practice, because that’s where change needs to happen. Teachers need to be equipped with the right training on effective techniques and they should be introduced to concepts such as differentiation, where each child learns according to his or her level. Teacher training must be practical and teachers must be provided with feedback on the job.

Third, we need to involve parents. I cringe when I hear someone say, “These parents are not educated and won’t provide any support to the child.” This is untrue. I’ve seen parents deeply invested in their child’s education — the average attendance at parent-teacher meetings in schools is around 95%. They are always willing to do what it takes to ensure that their child doesn’t struggle the way they did. Fourth, we need to scale programmes that demonstrate impact and not just run to the next innovation or pilot.

Supporting the expansion of a proven model to 1,000 schools is more likely to lead to classroom impact than supporting 10 new programmes that all strive to “redefine education.” Programmes must be rigorously evaluated for impact before they are scaled. Fifth, we need to partner more. Whether it’s public-private partnerships or NGO partnerships or State government knowledge sharing, more needs to happen. It takes a village to raise a child and it will take a nation working together to ensure that all children get the education they deserve.