Teaching Hours

The Wall Street Journal has published some interesting data from the OECD comparing the numbers of instructional hours in Primary Schools throughout OECD countries:

Wall Street Journal – Publishing OECD Data

Now, I believe the most important caveat to this data has to be that numbers of hours spent under ‘instruction’ is no real measure of the quality of education that children are getting in different countries. Nevertheless, the data is still indicative.

India, of course isn’t in the OECD, so just as we can’t get directly comparative data under the PISA tests which are carried out in OECD countries, used by many of them to shape their national education policies. However, one interesting perspective comes when we look at the new (well, new in the sense that still little of its intention has been achieved!) Right to Education Act, we see stipulated minimums for instructional hours:
Class 1 to 5    800 hours per annum
Class 6 to 8    1,000 hours per annum

On a very basic comparison these figures would probably look right for the higher classes, but might be considered a bit on the light side for class 5 and below. As I said at the beginning, what’s really crucial though is not just the number of hours, but how they are used. That these targets have been set in the RTE suggests that most schools, especially the government ones are short of these hours currently. My bigger concern is that “too little time” is the excuse heard most often from traditional chalk-and-talk teachers when they resist changing their classroom teaching practices. So, there’s a real risk that you get a double negative – short hours, used poorly resulting in ineffective, weak learning.

This is certainly one target in the RTE that should be aimed for early. Then, armed with the international comparison data we can show all teachers that the time they have available to teach is comparable with that available to teachers in any country, so they need not be restrained in their methodologies. Then, we need to back that with massive, high quality training, using IT based resources when possible for leverage right across the country.

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