Briefing paper

Raising learning outcomes in diverse Indian contexts

Photo: A classroom in India. Photo credit: Kirsten/Flickr licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

This policy brief shows that improving learning outcomes in diverse Indian contexts requires a rethinking of educational strategies. While improvements in physical access to schools are welcome, improving learning outcomes requires different stakeholders to strengthen their role and adapt teaching content and methods to local contexts. The paper highlights the key messages and policy implications from seven projects from the ESRC-DFID Raising Learning Outcomes in Education Systems Research Programme. The research evidence provides valuable new insights to inform the Indian government’s efforts to ensure that all children benefit from quality education.

Focus projects: 

ASER testing, India.
Our project explores the potential of community based accountability relationships to raise children's foundational learning outcomes, with a focus on the most disadvantaged primary-school learners: namely those who are from poorer households and, within these, girls. We ask both whether and how changes occur when school actors are supported to view their accountability as being primarily to their local community and their goal as being to raise all children's learning.

Although there have been major advances in school enrolment in the past two decades, the outcomes of education are often poor, especially among girls, young people from indigenous groups and ethnic minorities, those of lower socio-economic status and in remote rural areas. The World Bank and other globally influential agencies have recently been promoting the view that this is partly due to the limited aspirations of such children and their parents.

Pupils attending deaf school in Sri Lanka
The research delivers an in-depth understanding of the problems that teachers face supporting students from diverse backgrounds, the teaching practices they adopt, and the kinds of support they need to help all children fulfill their learning potential.
A school in India
This innovative project examines the causes of low educational outcomes in schools in India where many children fail to achieve basic literacy and numeracy levels, while dropout rates, affecting girls more than boys, are very high. A starting point of this research is that bilingualism and multilingualism have revealed cognitive advantages and good learning skills in children raised in western societies. Multilingualism is the norm in India.
Schoolchildren from Thamel, Kathmandu
The project will investigate how the accountability of schools differs according the school management model and whether accountability is linked to differences in learning outcomes. Recently, a great deal of attention from international development donors has focused on new models of school management (e.g.
Three young boys, some deaf, some hearing, in Kochi, India
The exclusion of deaf children and young adults from access to school systems results in individuals and communities being denied quality education, leading to unemployment, low income, and increasing poverty.
Indian children at school near Bodh Gaya
This project focuses on learning outcomes for 'disadvantaged learners' in India: children of primary school age who are disadvantaged by a range of structural inequalities, which are often cross-cutting, such as gender, location, caste, and class.