The report highlighted that in rural India, just under three-quarters of students in grade 3 could not solve a simple two-digit subtraction, and by grade 5 half could still not do so. Half of Grade 5 students in rural India faced difficulty in reading text at the level of the grade 2 curriculum, which included sentences in the local language.
In New Delhi, India, in 2015, an average grade 6 student performed at a grade 3 level in math. Even by grade 9, the average student had reached less than a grade 5 level, and the gap between the better and worse performers grew over time.
As per the report, India ranks second only after Malawi in the list of countries where grade two students could not read a short text.
The report also concluded that millions of children across the world complete primary education without acquiring the basic competencies which are vital for further learning.
Pointing out the problem in the curriculum design, the report said that the school curriculum in India was designed for the elite. Teachers and textbooks focus on advanced topics which are far from helpful for struggling students. These students then fall far behind beyond the scope of recovery from learning deficit.
What is causing the learning crisis?
The report suggests that children from disadvantaged backgrounds show tendencies of learning deficit years before they start school. They begin school ill prepared.
Socioeconomic gaps also hamper a child's language and cognitive abilities before they start school.
The report also highlighted that teachers also often lack necessary skills and motivation. In Bihar only 10.5 per cent of teachers could solve a three-digit by one-digit division and demonstrate the steps involved.
"According to recent data on 1,300 villages in India, nearly 24 percent of teachers were absent during unannounced visits, at an associated fiscal cost of US$1.5 billion a year." The absenteeism of teachers is also a major issue.
Some other reasons listed include lack of autonomy in schools.
The report argues that countries can improve on three main fronts. One, there should be well-designed student assessment to measure the health of the education system. Two, based on the available evidence on how people learn, countries should set priorities for their own practice and innovation in education. And last, Countries need to understand that the system as a whole needs to support learning.
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