Editorial Notes

[Editorial Notes] Foundational skills of children will decide India’s growth story

One of the severe consequences of having an uneducated workforce will be our inability to keep pace with the global economy. Without a strong learning foundation, there can be little or no improvement in higher education or skill development.
By IASToppers
September 14, 2019


  • Introduction
  • Importance of Quality Education
  • India’s Grim Education Scenario
  • Recommendations
  • Conclusion

Foundational skills of children will decide India’s growth story 

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  • By 2020, the average age of an Indian is expected to be 29 years, while it will be 37 in China and 48 in Japan.


  • Additionally, around 12 million youth in India are now reaching the employable age each year.
  • However, the youth will be able to do very little to push the economy upward if India fail to invest in universal quality education.
  • Hence, School education is the most important socio-economic issue that will generate the demographic dividend needed to power India’s growth story.


Importance of Quality Education


  • Benefits of good quality school education accrue only when students complete and leave school after having acquired the gateway skills.
  • One of the severe consequences of having an uneducated workforce will be India’s inability to keep pace with the global economy.
  • Without a strong learning foundation at the primary level, there can be little or no improvement in higher education or skill development.
  • The draft National Education Policy (NEP) states that attainment of foundational skills has to be given the highest priority, which, if not achieved, would render all other efforts irrelevant for a large section of population.

India’s Grim Education Scenario


  • In India, as per Annual Status of Education Report 2018, only a little over one-quarter of third grade students can read second grade text or subtract one two-digit number from another.
  • Further, the Indian government’s own National Achievement Survey (NAS), too, indicates that a large proportion of children are not picking up critical skills in the early grades.

Inefficient Indian school education system

  • As per research, Children are expected to learn to read by class 3.
  • Beyond this critical stage, it becomes extremely difficult for children to pick up the basics and if they are still unable to read simple text or do simple math, they start to fall behind.
  • The absence of foundational skills affects children from poor households or first generation learners the most.
  • Their ill-equipped home environment combined with the lack of other external influences makes it even more difficult for them to make up for the lack of gateway skills.
  • In primary schools, teachers are usually guided by the curriculum-based textbooks, and they choose to focus on the children who are easiest to teach or who are most likely to follow and finish the curriculum.
  • Due to this challenge in Indian school education system, children who don’t know these critical skills tend to get left behind.


Focus on foundational learning

  • The government needs to focus on foundational learning.
  • They need to address key issues such as gaps in expectation setting across the entire chain of stakeholders, the lack of sharp and actionable literacy and numeracy skills-based goals and limited involvement of parents.

Filing classroom gaps

  • The gaps in classroom instruction practices need a more holistic approach.
  • Appropriate teaching-learning material, tools, training and teacher support need to be made available.

Ensuring system enabling conditions

  • There is a need to ensure system enabling conditions, such as teacher training, for teaching foundational skills and dedicated teacher allocation for primary classes.

Improved accountability

  • Improved accountability through independent monitoring and measurement can play a critical role in setting the educational system reforms.
  • For instance, in Peru, every stakeholder in school education knows that a student has to fluently read 40 words per minute in class 2 and 60 words per minute in class 3.


  • Improvement in the education system is crucial for India to cement its position as a global leader.
  • Making foundational learning a priority is the need of the hour as it opens up opportunities for better income, health, sanitation, safety, and so on.


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