In a departure from past practice, this month’s cover story is written by an academic with some help from our editorial team. Although in the past lead features have been written by individuals whose names don’t figure on our tombstone, those writers have always been journalists, or individuals who describe themselves as such. However when Anustup Nayak, vice president of the Gurgaon/Singapore-based XSeed Education Pvt. Ltd (estb.2008) — a well-known and respected name in primary education — enthusiastically proposed to write a long form feature on ways and means to quickly introduce whole school reform in K-12 institutions drawing upon experienced and erudite educators abroad, his enthusiasm proved infectious.
Certainly Anustup, an alumnus of the top-ranked Georgia Institute of Technology and renowned Harvard Graduate School of Education, has the qualifications and hands-on experience (XSeed Education’s innovative syllabus/curriculum is being taught in 3,000 primary schools countrywide) to write this month’s cover story which details three initial steps that schools need to take to improve learning outcomes and governance. Although there is no particular stimulus (‘newspeg’) to feature this story at this time, there’s no shortage of data which indicates that K-12 education in India needs urgent reform. The latest ASER (Annual Status of Education Report) of the highly respected Pratham Education Foundation, which measures learning outcomes of students in rural primaries countrywide, indicates that over 50 percent of adolescents in the 14-18 age group can’t calculate simple discounts or read analogue watches, apart from struggling to grasp class II-III textbooks.
The quality of urban private school leavers is not much better either. It’s widely acknowledged that they tend to lack analytical skills, and are way behind their counterparts in developed OECD countries in terms of capability to apply knowledge to solve real-life and/or workplace problems. Alas, this infirmity is pervasive across the education continuum stretching into postgrad learning. Therefore Anustup’s suggestions for initiating the process of whole school improvement are timely and offer school promoters, principal, teachers and parents a roadmap to focus on this long-neglected, overdue priority.
In some ways, the special report feature painstakingly written by our Mumbai correspondent Dipta Joshi for this issue is also connected with the cover story. Greater interaction between town and gown is a subject that I have been writing about for over three decades since my days as editor of Business India and Businessworld. Evidently without much success. However, Dipta reports that there’s some — even if inching — progress in this much needed rapprochement.