NAS 2021: From ‘below national average’ to national topper, Punjab scripts turnaround in 4 yrs

From scoring ‘below national average’ in 11 of 15 subjects in 2017 to being the national topper in 11 subjects four years later, Punjab has scripted a turnaround in the school level education, if the results of the National Achievement Survey (NAS)-2021, released by the Union Ministry of Education Thursday, is anything to go by.

NAS, conducted by the Centre in coordination with the CBSE and NCERT to assess learning outcome levels of students of class 3, 5, 8 and 10, was held on November 12 last year. At the national level, the survey tested 34.01 lakh students from 1.18 lakh schools. In Punjab, a total of 1.17 lakh students from 3656 schools, including government and private, were tested.

While class 3 and 5 children were tested in language (Punjabi), mathematics and environmental studies (EVS), the class 8 students were tested in mathematics, science, social social and language (Punjabi). Class 10 students were tested in English, Mathematics, science, social science and Modern India Language (MIL), which in case of Punjab was Punjabi.

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As per NAS-2021, Punjab has scored highest in all subjects for classes 3, 5 and 8. For class 10, it has scored the highest in maths, second highest in science, social science and MIL and third highest in English. It scored more than the national average in all categories and emerged as the topper in 11 of 15 subjects in which students of these four classes were assessed.

This is in sharp contrast with NAS-2017 report — the last time the survey was conducted — that had placed Punjab among the worst performing states. Punjab had scored below national average in all three subjects for class 3 and 5 and in three out of four subjects for class 8. For class 10, it had scored below national average in two subjects out of five.

“We were the worst performers in almost all categories and scored below national average in 11 of 15 subjects. That was a huge embarrassment for all of us. There was an introspection, and ground work was launched to prepare for the next survey,” said a senior official from the education department.

From training class 3 and 5 children in using OMR answer sheets to realigning entire syllabus in objective-type questions to making students familiar with NAS format — the education department officials and teachers kept the preparation process running.

Maninder Sarkaria, who was the nodal officer for NAS and is now the director, SCERT, said that the 2017 results were a huge setback. “From our syllabus to books and teaching methodology, nothing was child-friendly. We introduced a complete overhaul — from introducing pre-primary classes in government schools to Padho Punjab, we started working on learning outcome-levels based education. We realized we had to prepare them and it has to be a continuous process.”

While realigning the syllabus on NCERT pattern, the Punjab education department even conducted internal examinations in NAS format. It even introduced its own Punjab Achievement Survey (PAS) to prepare students for the national survey and assess learning loss during pandemic.

“We trained our teachers in using OMR answer sheets and they further made students practise the same. When online classes were being conducted, we made students practise on Google Forms on attempting objective type questions. Mock tests were held. We provided model sample papers so that students could practise at home,” said Sarkaria.

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“It was not just about making students familiar with NAS but also realigning the entire syllabus with the NCERT and making the entire pedagogy teacher-friendly. That time (in 2017) most of our students did not even know how to mark answers on OMR sheets,” said Sarkaria.

Pardeep Aggarwal, director general of school education (DGSE), Punjab said that the credit for state’s success goes to former state education secretary Krishan Kumar. “It is only due to his push and motivation that the department worked hard to prepare students. Preparations started well in advance. Government schools have performed better than private schools and our results are speaking for us,” said Aggarwal.

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