Another article in today's Hindustan Times regarding the importance of leveling (aka: teaching to the level of the students) on improving learning outcomes. I had highlighted this a few weeks back on this blog, but this deserves another mention. Why are learning levels still so low (yes, in public AND private schools)? Because leveling is difficult. And teachers are underpaid and undermotivated to undertake the extra work required to level, especially in the face of weak administrative and assessment structures. Government-syllabus levels, and curricula in general, are grossly mismatched for the learning levels in the classrooms of the developing world. These levels are created in capital city laboratories, with no relation or connection to the realities in the urban areas, let alone rural regions of these countries. Teaching at the wrong level is the same as not teaching at all: it is a complete waste of time. In addition, this is further complicated by government-mandated textbooks, which compliment the mismatched schooling curricula.
So, what is the answer?
J-PAL has provided research showing that extra community-based tutoring is effective at raising learning levels; however, this requires strong community commitment and contributions. And as long as teachers are under pressure to deliver on government curricula, they will not have the time, energy or motivation to put in extra work in tutoring (minus monetary compensation).
However, studies in Haryana, India, have shown that grouping students at their actual reading level (which requires pre-assessment) and teaching them in these groupings with level-appropriate materials is conducive to large improvements in literacy. Thus, we must focus on how this can become a reality in resource-scarce and training-scarce (as well as assessment-scarce) environments.