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4 Key Ingredients for better learning

Last month, the World Bank Group published the World Development Report (WDR) 2018, the first-ever edition entirely focused on education. The report warns of a learning crisis in global education and the severity of this in the deprived areas.

Shockingly, there are still around 260 million children who aren’t even enrolled in primary or secondary schools.
Education is meant to equip students with the skills they need to lead healthy, productive and meaningful lives.
But as opposed to this, worldwide, hundreds of millions of children reach adulthood without even the most basic life skills, even if they have attended school. These learning shortfalls during the school years eventually show up as weak skills in the workforce, thereby reflecting the learning crisis, often shattering hopes of a fulfilling career and educating their children.

Figure 1: Percentage of Grade 2 students who could not read a single word of a short text
Source: WDR 2018

What creates this learning crisis?
Struggling education systems lack one or more of the 4 key school level ingredients for learning:

  1. Skilled and motivated teachers

  2. Prepared learners

  3. Learning focused inputs and

  4. Skilled management.


Skilled and motivated teachers

The quality of teaching and education, to an immense extend, is dependent on the quality of the teacher. And the reason for that is because teachers are the primary and crucial factor affecting learning in schools. But even today, it is highly deplorable that we underestimate the vitality of having skilled and motivated teachers, who are the key influencers of a growing generation. This is of utmost importance especially in developing countries. It is widely accepted that a teacher needs to possess skills over and above the knowledge of the subject matter or his/her area of expertise; class room management, innovation, communication skills, just to name a few. Adapting to the latest teaching practices can facilitate better learning. Moreover, teachers who are motivated and enthusiastic have a higher probability of bringing in a fresh perspectives and innovative teaching techniques and ideas. This in turn, can have an effect on the intrinsic motivation of students in learning the subject. Teacher training programs and skill development workshops that focus on improving classroom practice through the usage of technology, interactive learning materials, classroom management skills, lesson planning, and appropriate teaching styles will not only help your teachers to acquire new skills but also stay motivated in their work.

Prepared learners

Cases of unprepared learners or students, especially due to their living circumstances, are predominant in less developed and developing nations. Financial conditions, lack of care and attendance, lower pre-school skills and other severe deprivations often have a negative effect on the brain development of students. This can lead to the students arriving at school unprepared to fully benefit from the education provided, thereby learning less. This is another area where the skill of a teacher comes to play, in being multifaceted, in aiding and assisting the students to help bridge the gap. Creating the right learning atmosphere and adopting effective learning techniques like focusing on lesson planning, usage of different delivery techniques, maintaining student attention, developing positive student-teacher relationship etc, can go a long way in helping the students to overcome the initial difficulties. An effective teacher focuses less on testing and more on teaching, thereby preparing the students for the future.


Learning Focused Inputs

The dismal learning levels in schools come as no surprise given the subservient quality of inputs like the infrastructure and technology, school supplies and study materials along and other auxiliary resources. The unavailability of these inputs can create disparity, making way for a highly substandard quality of education with huge input gaps. To bridge this gap, it is imperative that enough resources be deployed especially in less developed and developing nations, where these gaps are enormous. It has also been found that many a times the provided resources were not put to productive use or, in several cases, used at all. In Brazil, as part of the ‘One Laptop per Child’ initiative, irrespective of having supplied laptops, more than 40% of the teachers reportedly never or hardly used them in classroom activities.


Figure 3: Percentage of children between the ages 3-5, who can recognize 10 letters of the alphabet, by wealth quintile, of selected countries.


School Management

Superficially it may seem that the effectiveness and efficiency of the school management does not directly impact student learning. But it has far reaching consequences. This is because an effective management will be able to tackle most of the stumbling blocks in imparting good quality education and higher learning levels. It can ensure that the resources are well utilized and the teaching quality is not compromised. They would be able to devise strategies to bridge the gap of inequalities and develop capacities and schools with lower achievement levels.
Sadly, this is not the case in most of the low income countries, where the management is hardly involved in aiding teachers to resolve issues or provide instructional advice. Even the decision-making authorities of the schools turn a blind eye. This coupled with the lack of any community engagements further aggravates the problem, subsequently widening social gaps and curbing children an opportunity to learn. Many a times, effective school management software can ease a lot of issues pertaining to maintaining and managing schools like coordinating staff members, collaborating with educators, developing lesson plans, accessing student and staff records and reports, managing functions like admission, attendance and much more.


Figure 4: Surveys in several developing nations have pointed out that a considerable amount of classroom time is lost due to teachers being absent from classrooms or in schools.
Source: World Bank Service Delivery Indicators (SDI) surveys (http://www.worldbank.org/sdi)

Most of the countries have already made an immense progress by getting so many children into school. Now it’s time to take measures to ensure active learning, which can benefit children, youth and families, imparting them with employable and life skills and thereby hopes of a better life and a better tomorrow- the real promise of education.

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