Key insights from 'Inside Primary Schools' report by Pratham - Ensuring Learning India S2 E.004

[14th post in 'Ensuring Learning India' series]

The second theme in the 'Ensuring Learning India' series is 'Status of Education in India'. The first three posts on this theme discuss status of learning outcomes, status of infrastructure and perceptions of different stakeholders respectively. All these are aggregates or snapshots at one point of time. But what would be like to track government schools over a period of time and see what's happening? Pratham has done that through its 'Inside Primary Schools' study. The study tracks about 30,000 children from around 900 government primary schools over a period of one year, covering Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan.

The text below is taken directly from the original report from the relevant sections. In the interest of the length of this post, only key points are mentioned. It is strongly recommended to read the complete report.

Teachers attendance and student learning

Schools with an average of 0 or 1 teacher present clearly have lower mean and median classroom scores than schools with an average of 2 or more teachers, on both the baseline and the endline tests. But beyond 2 teachers, there is no clear relationship between the average number of teachers present and classroom scores, on either baseline or endline.


Classroom environment
  1. Most classes took place in a classroom. Although most classrooms had basic facilities such as blackboards, few had children’s work displayed.
  2. Most classrooms had well under 30 students present in all. However, these usually comprised two or more grades sitting together.

Teaching methods
  1. The most frequently observed teaching methods were writing on the blackboard (63% of all classrooms) and reading from the textbook (61%). In contrast, teachers were observed using teaching learning material other than the textbook in barely 10% of all classrooms.
  2. Even though most classrooms comprised children from different grades, there was little evidence of teaching methods that catered to the diverse needs or abilities of students.
Child friendly classrooms

Six simple indicators were used to identify ‘child friendly’ classrooms. overall, three or more child friendly practices were seen in less than 20% of the 1,706 observed classrooms. More than half of these were located in a single state Andhra Pradesh.

Teachers' capability
  1. No relationship was found between specific teacher background characteristics (e.g., years of experience, gender, age, educational or professional qualifications) and student learning outcomes.
  2. In math, teachers were generally able to solve questions involving basic numeric operations and explain the process. Questions requiring applied knowledge were correctly answered by fewer respondents. Teachers encountered the greatest difficulty when asked to create their own problems for students to solve.
  3. Similarly in language, teachers performed much better in tasks involving simple corrections (e.g., spelling mistakes) than more complex tasks such as writing summaries of text.
Socioeconomic characteristics
  1. Households of sample children vary widely in terms of socioeconomic indicators. Across the sample, higher economic status correlates positively with children’s attendance and learning outcomes.
  2. Educational levels of families are generally low across the sample. But parents’ and particularly mothers’ education is strongly related to children’s learning.
Home literacy environment
  1. Most children in the sample came from households which had few, if any, print materials available at home other than the textbooks. The availability of print materials in the household correlates with better learning outcomes.
  2. Children whose home language differs from the language of instruction in schools performed substantially worse in baseline and endline assessments than children whose home language matched the school’s language of instruction.
Academic support outside school
  1. Less than half the sampled children had attended any type of preschool program. Children who had attended preschool were found to attend school more oft en. However, no consistent relationship was observed between preschool attendance and learning outcomes.
  2. Children who received academic support outside of school (about two thirds of the sample) performed better than children who did not. However, the positive relationship between children’s learning and extra help outside of school was mainly seen among children who received help from parents rather than from other family members or elsewhere.
  3. Children who took paid private tuition classes attended school less oft en. But in Std 2, their learning outcomes were no better than those of other children. In Std 4, children who took private tuition had poorer learning outcomes than those who did not.

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