Life in Gurgaon

ASER 2018: One out of every 8 students in rural India can’t read simple texts

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One out of every four Class 8 students in rural India is unable to read even a Class 2 text. And over one in two Class 8 students cannot solve a problem that involves basic division.

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2018 shows that while there are small improvements, the crisis in Indian education, in terms of outcomes, continues. The survey covered around 3.5 lakh households and 546,527 children between the ages of three and 16 across 596 rural districts. It is conducted by an autonomous unit of education-NGO Pratham.

Among the improvements, the percentage of students in Class 3 who can read at Class 2 level has been climbing slowly over the years. This figure has increased from 21.6% in 2013 to 27.2 % in 2018, the report claims. But the improvements only highlight the continuing poor outcomes. Only a little more than half of all children enrolled in Class 5 can read a Class 2 level text. The figure was 47.9% in 2016, and it rose to 50.3% in 2018, courtesy an improved performance by Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram, according to the survey.

Like previous ASER reports, the one released on Tuesday is worrying. By Class 8, the last year of compulsory schooling in India, all children are expected to have mastered foundational skills.

The ASER data indicates that only 73% of Class 8 students in rural districts can read a Class 2 level text. And 56% can’t solve a basic division problem.

The best news in the ASER report is that the proportion of children not enrolled in school has fallen below 3% for the first time ever in India and stands at 2.8%. This improvement is seen across age groups and gender. For instance, in 2018, the proportion of girls in the 11 to 14 age group who were out of school fell to 4.1% from 10.3% in 2006.

And in 2008, at least 20% of girls in the 15-16 age group were not enrolled in school. This figure now stands at 13.5%. The Centre and the states have worked hard to get girls into classrooms. In many states, they are provided free cycles. Others have worked on building school infrastructure — providing separate girls’ toilets, for instance. According to the ASER report, the number of schools with a serviceable girls’ toilet doubled between 2010 and 2018. Around two-thirds of all girls’ schools in rural India now have toilets, the report adds.