I woke up earlier than the alarm bell was scheduled to ring – mostly driven by an innate desire to visit schools in remote parts of India to interact with children to get a first hand understanding of how they think. With my Mindspark Centres experience, I have found that my ability to speak to anyone – whether the top most officials in the government to donors to Foundation to Teach For India – (TFI) Fellows to Educational Initiatives (EI) employees – is far more grounded by the experience of spending significant time on the ground. I doubt that it’s possible to become successful in reforming the education sector without understanding reality – and there is really no shortcut or substitute than to do it literally by being on the ground. I thank everyone involved in the state level Learning Level Assessment project with state government to give me this opportunity to do it.


I asked the following question to approx 20 grade 6 students – “Which of these 3 shapes has an area?”
image (2)
 In class Survey: 
Students were asked to think, and write down their answers on a piece of paper. Then I proceeded to ask students to raise their hands on the answer choice before calling them to understand their rationale. It turns out that most students raised their hands for the *right* answer; although data for entire state is as below.
Reading capability: 
It turns out that most of the students from the state, we met were able to at least pronounce and decode (which is read fluently but not comprehend the meaning).
To see a fantastic example of of someone who reads the question, picks the right answer, but has no clue of anything about area – watch the two minute video3.



Rote definition of area:
Most students think area is length x breadth [to see students play out this – watch video1 from 01:00 to 01:30 and 00:45 to 01:00 of video2




 Inability to give area of a square given one side: 
Given the length of a square with only 1 side – children are unable to give the area of the square – insisting a second side be given – watch 01:30 to 02:00 of video1



 Definition of area of a square given four sides:
If all 4 sides length of a square are given, some students tend to multiply all 4 sides for the area. Sometimes when asked to calculated then they *add* instead of multiplying which is what they have written and said they would do. The same student insists that the area is only the length of one slide when given that (instead of 4 sides). Watch 02:00 till the ending of video1 to see this in action. Somehow this piece managed to impress Nishchal that I am very “patient” in my student interview as a newbie.


Areas with irregular shapes cannot have area because they don’t have straight lines and they have curved lines:watch video2  01:00 to 02:00



 Student multiply any given lengths for areas with irregular shapes:  In the following figure the student calculated the area as 3 x 4 x 5 = 60 confidently. Watch video2 from 2:45 for 30 seconds.



I thought as a responsible person I should prepare for the student interviews, so I prepared with my colleague on the car journey and we thought of some questions I could ask. In front of the camera was a different story – that plays out in the 3 videos. It shows you clearly – who was far more confident – the student or me? Encourage you to go through the same treatment!


By Pranav Kothari
(AVP – Large Scale Assessment)

Pranav Kothari

Pranav Kothari

Pranav Kothari heads the Large Scale Assessments and Mindspark Centres divisions at Educational Initiatives. This includes all the work with Governments, Foundations and Corporate CSR in the domain of learning level assessments, interventions and advisory consulting. Prior to EI, Pranav worked as a management consultant with Boston Consulting Group in USA, Germany, Chile and Argentina. He also worked as a Private Equity investor with GTI Global in USA and India. Pranav graduated with an MBA from Harvard Business School and a B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology.
Pranav Kothari