Education is something which fascinates almost everyone of us. Give us any article, post, blog or journal on education and we would pounce wearing our reading hats. We talk about it all the time, we ponder upon it, all the time. And yet we, most of us, do not know what all goes on in the making of our young generations with education as the prime mover. Here at MHRD, the initial days were highly stimulating with visits to KVS, NVS, CBSE, NCTE, NIOS, NUEPA, NCERT and several other institutions doing work in education sector. With these comprehensive attachments, you find yourself on course to understand the nuances of this gigantic system of school education.
As far as NAS is concerned, it is being executed by NCERT in coordination with Education Departments of the States and their respective SCERT. This is not the first edition of NAS though as earlier NCERT has done several iterations with these kind of surveys. But there are several improvements for the present version which makes it very unique and much more effective. Unlike before, this one will be on a single assessment day. For the first time, it goes a level down and allows reports to be drawn at the district level. Earlier it was only possible at the national or state level. And the most significant reform among all is the fact that the question items are mapped to the respective Learning Outcomes (LOs) of that particular grade whereas earlier they were based simply on the curriculum.
The LOs were formulated not very long ago and represent what a child should know, possess and apply after the end of a particular grade. For example, a grade 5 student should be able to understand a bar chart and draw some basic inferences from it. These LOs were developed for all the grades and circulated across the country. Various training programs were organized to sensitize teachers and parents about the relevance of these LOs. Here is a link to download the LOs. At the time when I came on board, the test items were under review by the assessment experts. Having come from the other side where we only attempted questions, this science of developing questions was fascinating experience. The amount of thought process and energy which goes into developing the stem of the questions and the four possible options, is tremendous. There were days when we had day-long debates on particular questions and on specific options. But it is only when you analyze the data from these surveys that you realize every bit of that industry was worth.
The Education Survey Division (ESD) at NCERT has been given the mandate to carry out all sorts of surveys and assessments. The faculties working in ESD are all experts in assessment, sampling techniques, data management and data analysis. Once they were done with the preliminary work for NAS, state representatives were trained and then the district representatives. Meanwhile travelling to all these regional NAS workshops across India, it was enthralling to see educationists from different region and how their capacity, grasp and grievance were unique in themselves. Given the diversity and colossal expanse, a national level survey in our country would always be a challenging task. The linguistic dimension, logistical complexity and state capacity resulted in different set of problems requiring innovation at every step.
You might be aware about the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) Test conceptualized and executed by OECD. This test is for all the 15 year old students across the world as it is based on some mutually agreed global competencies and allows nations do assess the performance of their students on an international scale. India participated in PISA 2009 but the results were disappointing. There are several factors which help to understand why. The pedagogy required to inculcate that level of analysis is absent, the contextualization of the questions is inadequate and our national surveys are not aligned to this type of analysis.
NAS is perhaps one step in that direction. We must assess whether our children are actually learning something or not. We must see if they are inculcating the necessary skills at the right time. We must bridge the gaps by way of linking teacher trainings to the results of these surveys. And also we must move towards achieving these global competencies. The forthcoming versions of NAS may be remodeled gradually to achieve that sort of level. But firstly, we must make such assessments a high-priority item because we would only know which direction we need to go after we find out where we stand right now!
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