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A study of three current problems of Indian education.


PROJECT I – Questionnaires answered by a number of suitably experienced Indian teachers revealed that there was a wide-spread conviction that pupils in Indian afternoon schools did not and could not work at their full mental potential because they had lost their morning freshness and were tired and unfit for school work in the afternoon. To check this, 144 pupils of an afternoon school were tested on intellectual tasks in the morning and in the afternoon in order to ascertain whether there were any significant differences in performance between the two sessions. Tests of vocabulary, intelligence, mechanical arithmetic, and paragraph comprehension were used. Performance during the two sessions was compared in respect of actual scores, accuracy, gross output, and variability on the four tests, The data was broken down in several ways on the bases of age, intelligence, and educational level of the pupils for the purpose of making detailed comparisons. In all, 168 tests of statistical significance were carried out. It was found that on none of the measures did morning work show superiority over afternoon work at the .01 level of significance. On the contrary, six of the differences significantly favoured the afternoon. It was concluded that neither the morning nor the afternoon possesses any inherent advantage over the other for work of an intellectual nature in school. The apparent superiority of the afternoon on six of the differences (eleven, if the .05 level of significance was used) was attributed to the fact that the pupils used in the study were conditioned to schooling in the afternoon. It was stressed that motivation was of crucial importance in studies of this kind. It was suggested also that the drawing of a clear-cut distinction between fatigue and impairment would do much to clear the confusion that has characterised work in this field previously. PROJECT II – The purpose of this project was to investigate the relationship between bilingualism in Indian standard six students and their efficiency in English, on the one hand, and their performance in intelligence and scholastic tests, on the other. The following three working hypotheses were formulated:- (1) Indian pupils would score relatively lower than English-speaking Europeans in intelligence and scholastic tests that demanded a greater degree of familiarity with English than in intelligence and scholastic tests that did not require such a high standard of English. (2) Since Indian pupils varied in the amount of English they used in the home vis a vis the mother tongue (i.e., in bilinguality), those children who had a richer background of English would tend to score relatively higher in tests that demanded a high degree of acquaintance with English than those children with a poorer background. (3) Apart from the influence of the home, the varying levels of actual individual achievement of Indian children in scholastic tests of English (i.e., their "achieved" English) would, to some extent, be related to their performance in intelligence and scholastic tests which required knowledge of English. The sample consisted of 697 boys and 355 girls from 20 Government and Government-Aided Indian schools in Durban. A bilingualism scale revealed that degree of bilinguality was associated basically with the religious - mother tongue affiliation of the pupils, with the level of western education of their parents (negatively), and with the level of mother-tongue education of their parents (positively). Hypothesis (1) was consistently borne out. The Indian subjects scored significantly lower in the verbal section of the New South African Group Test than in its non-verbal section, by English-speaking European norms. The gap increased consistently as one went down to standards below six but closed at levels above standard six. In the scholastic tests also the Indian students scored lower in vocabulary and reading comprehension by English-speaking European standards than in problem and mechanical arithmetic, subjects which involved English less directly. Hypothesis (2) was consistently negatived. With age and socio-economic status neutralised, there appeared no significant correlation between either non-verbal, verbal or combined intelligence test scores and degree of bilingualism in both sexes. Similarly, with age, socio-economic status and sex neutralised, no significant correlation was discovered between scores in all the four scholastic tests used and degree of bilinguality. The conclusion was that though the Indian standard six pupils were retarded in English by English-speaking European standards (as indicated in the testing of Hypothesis (1)), their degree of bilingualism had little or nothing to do with such retardation. Hypothesis (3) was confirmed. Ability in vocabulary and in reading comprehension was found to be significantly associated with goodness of performance in intelligence and scholastic tests, suggesting that schools would do well to pay special attention to the development of a good vocabulary and skill in reading comprehension. It was suggested that the reason for the grossly inferior showing of the Indian pupils by European standards in both the intelligence and scholastic tests must be sought in directions other than bilinguality.Figures were quoted to suggest that the key to the problem probably lay in the school-entrance age of the pupils. A full-scale investigation of this possibility forms the subject of the next project. A noteworthy feature of this project was that many items of incidental information of a social, cultural, educational and psychological nature came to light, that were as thought-provoking as the original problem undertaken, if not more so. Some of these certainly merit detailed study in the future. Examples of such findings are:-(1) The girls of the sample appeared to be a more highly selected group than the boys. They were younger in age, higher in socio-economic status, and their parents were more advanced in education both by western and eastern standards than the parents of the boys. (2) Matched for age and socio-economic status, significant sex differences appeared in the non-verbal, verbal and combined intelligence test scores, in favour of the boys. In the scholastic tests also, the sex differences that proved to be significant favoured the boys. (3) The most conservative Indian groups in respect of the adoption of English as the home language and in the provision of western education for their females were the Hindu-Gujurati, the Moslem-Gujurati and the Moslem-Urdu. These three were also the highest in socio-economic status. The most "progressive" were the Christian groups. (4) In spite of the restricted occupational range among Durban Indians, socio-economic status differences were reflected in both intelligence and scholastic test scores. (5) Performance in all the four scholastic tests was more highly correlated with scores in the verbal section of the New South African Group Test than in its non-verbal section, indicating that the former is a superior instrument of educational prognosis in the Indian situation than the latter. PROJECT III – A study of the relationship between the performance level of Indian pupils in intelligence and scholastic tests and their age of school entrance was the subject of Project III. The sample consisted of 1,693 boys from 12 schools in the alluvial flats area of Durban. In socio-economic status, this is one of the poorer Indian localities of Durban. The pupils ranged in age from 8.0 to 20.5 years and were spread out from standard two to six. None of them had ever failed a class before, so that any overageness-for-grade was due solely to the fact that schooling had been delayed because of failure to find accommodation in the congested schools of the area. Besides its immediate, practical relevance for Indian education, the study had a theoretical aspect as well. It was concerned with the nature - nurture problem and sought to show the extent to which a single environmental factor, namely, schooling, could influence performance in intelligence and attainment tests within the same ethnic group. The investigation was undertaken from three angles, each with its own working hypothesis. They were labelled (a) the study of relative retardation, (b) the study of relative educability, and (c) the study of relative progress. The hypotheses, respectively, were as follows:- (a) Of a group of pupils of the same age but varying in school standard, those in the upper grades will achieve higher raw scores in mental and scholastic tests than those in the lower grades, other things equal. (b) Of a group of pupils in the same school standard but varying in age, the older, presumably more advanced in mental age and experience, will achieve higher raw scores in mental and scholastic tests than the younger other things equal. (c) Given a group of late-(older children) and a group of early-starters (younger children) in standard two, the older, by virtue of their advantage in chronological and, presumably, mental age, will show greater progress from grade to grade and finish at standard six at a significantly higher level of mental and scholastic attainment than the younger, other things equal. Hypothesis (a) was tested by the technique of partial correlation and Hypothesis (b) by means of chi-square tests and one-way analyses of variance. It was not found necessary to apply any test of statistical significance in the study of Hypothesis (c). The instruments used were a questionnaire, the Progressive Matrices Test of intelligence, the New South African Group Test of intelligence (non-verbal and verbal), and scholastic tests of vocabulary, problem arithmetic and mechanical arithmetic. A scale for the measurement of socio-economic status was also designed to match pupils for home background (and, indirectly therefore, for parental intellectual level). Hypothesis (a) was confirmed consistently at three age levels. Pupils in the upper grades scored progressively higher in terms of I.Q.'s, raw intelligence-test scores and raw attainment-test scores than those in the lower grades but of the same age. The powerful effect of schooling as a factor in determining performance level in both intelligence and attainment tests was brought out in clear-cut terms. Hypothesis (b) was disproved almost consistently through all the four grades studied, the solitary exception occurring at the standard two level where the older pupils surpassed the younger in problem arithmetic. In many cases, the results were the reverse of what was hypothesized, the younger surpassing the older at significant levels of confidence. In the Matrices Test, no significant differences between the younger and older students appeared throughout all four grades. In non-verbal, verbal and combined I.Q.’S on the South African Group Test, the early-school-starters were consistently and significantly ahead of the late-starters in all the standards. With educational level fixed for all, chronological age became a handicap to the older. What was unexpected, however, was the fact that the younger students proved to be significantly superior to the older even in raw scores in the Group Test at the standard six and five levels from a position of more or less equality at standards four and two. In the scholastic tests also, the younger children in standard six scored significantly better than the older in vocabulary and problem arithmetic, and, in standard five, in vocabulary. There were no notable differences in performance in the other subjects at any grade level except that in standard two, the older boys headed the younger in problem arithmetic, as mentioned above. This evidence, in terms of raw scores, was interpreted as indicating not only that the older pupils were not superior to the younger in educability but that they were actually inferior in this respect in the upper grades of the primary school; that, in fact, the older, because of their delay in schooling, were stunted in mental growth and that this impairment became more and more evident with the growing challenge to the intellect of the higher grades; and that, therefore, the damage must be regarded as permanent. The results of Hypothesis (c) confirmed the conclusions of the first two hypotheses. The early-school-starters, after being somewhat behind the older in standards two and three went on to surpass the older boys by the time standard six was reached. There is some evidence that, below the standard two level, the older pupils are superior in intelligence and scholastic tests to the younger (in raw scores, not quotients) and that this superiority increases as one goes further down the grade scale. The crucial point seems to be standard four. It is at about this stage that the younger children seem to achieve stable parity with the older after which they draw ahead. In the sample of Project III, it was found that although parents higher in socio-economic status secured school places for their children at earlier ages than those of lower status, this factor was not significant in the determination of test scores when matched against the factor of age at school entrance. The investigation revealed that weakness in English was a significant factor, though not as important as believed in the past, in depressing Indian scores relative to Europeans in the upper grades. As one goes down the grades from standard six to standard two, the discrepancy between scores in non-verbal and verbal tests of intelligence becomes greater as command of English decreases. Nevertheless, even at the standard two level where mastery of English is weakest, grossly delayed schooling plays a more important role in lowering intelligence-test scores than does handicap in the language medium of Indian schools. The research confirmed two outstanding generalisations that have appeared in the past as a result of investigations among less-privileged groups, namely, an intelligence level below the national norm and a decline in intelligence quotients with increasing chronological age. It was pointed out that failure of the Natal educational authorities to provide sufficient school buildings to accommodate all Indian children of 5 plus years and above was causing serious and permanent damage to the intellectual growth of those affected and that, in the light of this finding, nothing less than an immediate regularising of the situation would be satisfactory. The study also brought to light how misleading results of interracial comparisons of intelligence levels could be if the factor of schooling, particularly of age of school entrance, is not taken into careful account. It was predicted that if Indian and European school children were matched for age of school entry, quality of educational facilities, language and socio-economic status, all alleged innate, racial differences in intelligence-test scores would disappear.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of Natal, Durban, 1961.


Indians--Education--South Africa., Educational tests and measurements--South Africa., Platoon schools--KwaZulu-Natal., School children--KwaZulu-Natal--Intelligence testing., Theses--Education.