Children enter school with their own learning experiences. The school undertakes the responsibility of building further learning on the child’s existing experiences. Therefore, at no stage or class do we start from ‘no learning’. A teacher, who is a facilitator and mentor of students’ learning, needs to be made aware about various pedagogies and also the progress in the child’s learning. This is important for providing quality Education for All. This concern has been reflected in the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act 2009; the Twelfth Five Year Plan of India; and the Sustainable Development Goals at the global level.
Quality improvement in education encompasses the all-round development of learners. This requires a multi-pronged approach aiming at quality curriculum and its effective transaction in an enabling environment. The RTE Act 2009 emphasises Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) to help teachers to develop an understanding on the learning progression of individual children, identify the learning gaps and bridge them in time to facilitate their growth and development in a stress free environment. However, in the present scenario, besides students and teachers, parents, community members and educational administrators are also keen to know about the learning of students and thus, monitor the progress of learning of their wards. For this, they need and demand some criteria against which the extent of expected learning could be mapped or assessed.
The literature on ‘Education for All’ (EFA), in the last three decades emphasised on quality of education. It has been considered in terms of enrolment, retention and achievement. It further included desirable characteristics of learners, learning processes, facilities, learning materials, contents, governance and management and learning outcomes. Improving the quality of learning has consistently been in focus under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), and the Right to Education (RTE) Act. However, reports (Global Monitoring Report (GMR)–2015), achievement surveys (Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) , National Achievement Survey (NAS) of Class III, (MHRD, 2014), report a decline in outcomes of reading, mathematical and numerical abilities of children. Keeping this in view, quality, as measured by learning outcomes to be achieved by all, especially for literacy, numeracy and essential life skills is crucial.
Most often, teachers are not clear about what kind of learning is desired and the criteria against which it could be assessed.They use textbooks as the complete curriculum and assess children using questions given at the unit end exercises. The contextual variations in textual material and variations in pedagogy adopted are generally not taken into account, for there are no criteria to assess them. The learning outcomes for each class not only help the teachers to direct their teaching-learning in the desired manner but make other stakeholders, especially the parents or guardians, School Management Committee (SMC) members, community and the state functionaries to be responsible and alert towards their role for ensuring quality education.
The National Policy on Education (NPE) 1986, revised in 1992 and the Programme of Action (PoA) 1992 emphasised that the Minimum Levels of Learning (MLLs) should be laid down and children’s learning should periodically be assessed to keep a track of their progress towards ensuring the achievement of NPE goal that ‘all children should acquire at least minimum levels of learning’. The MLLs developed class-wise and subject-wise for primary stage in 1992 in the form of competencies were highly product-oriented and had a limited scope for assessment of the overall development of children.
A radical shift came almost a decade ago when the child’s capacity to construct knowledge as a natural learner was recognised as central to the transaction of the curriculum, and the teacher’s role was primarily as a facilitator of the learning process. The knowledge, thus gained, is an outcome of their engagement with the world around when they explore, respond, invent, and make meaning of it. It means that the focus shifted to the process of learning. It envisaged conceptual understanding as a continuous process, i.e., the process of deepening and enriching connections acquiring more layers of dispositions, emotions as an integral component of cognitive development, making meaning and developing the capacity of abstract thinking and reflection.
The overall development of a child through education, conceptualised as a fundamental right under the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009, had been a priority of almost all policy documents. The document, Minimum Levels of Learning at Primary Stage, too recognised this, yet expressed difficulty in dealing with the psychomotor and affective domains. The reasons for this were mentioned as: difficulty of assessing affective qualities with precision and through paper- pencil test as they are intangible and subjective, influenced by personal preferences and prejudices besides the uncertainty of their full development. The document considered them to be a part of the process of development and change in the students’ personality rather than being the final product of specific inputs and processes.
Against this backdrop, an exercise was undertaken to relook into the whole process with a fresh perspective and devise learning outcomes for different curricular areas of the elementary stage (Classes I- VIII).
The learning outcomes document that has been evolved by NCERT mentions distinctly the learning outcomes for each class in Languages (Hindi, English and Urdu), Mathematics, Environmental Studies, Science and Social Science up to the Elementary Stage. The document is meant for all stakeholders especially the parents/guardians, teachers, SMC and community members. Some features of the document are :
Inclusion is all about providing effective learning opportunities to all students. The learning outcomes are the same for all children provided that these are balanced and brought in harmony with the individual needs of each child. The Special Educational Needs (SEN) may emanate from a number of reasons, disability conditions could be one such reason. Accordingly, they need to be facilitated with different aids such as mobility aids (wheel chair, crutches, white cane), hearing-aids, optical or non-optical aids, educational aids like Taylor frames, the abacus, etc. and modifying the learning situations suiting their needs; sensitising other children to help them in need; to ensure their participation in the learning process; to help them progress like other children.
Following are a few more points to facilitate Children with Special Needs accomplish the learning outcomes.