UPSC MAINS 2019: What ASER says about quality of learning in India?

What ASER says about quality of learning in India


Topic: What ASER says about quality of learning in India?

Topic in Syllabus: GS Paper 3: Indian Society

What ASER says about quality of learning in India



The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2018 published by education non-profit Pratham shows the prevalence of learning deficit and the poverty of basic reading and arithmetic skills among students in Indian schools.


About Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2018:

  • ASER (Annual Status of Education Report) is an annual survey that aims to provide reliable annual estimates of children’s schooling status and basic learning levels for each state and rural district in India.
  • It is the largest citizen-led survey in India, and is also the only annual source of information on children’s learning outcomes available in India today.
  • The survey, undertaken as an annual, web-based, pan-India exercise on the status of Higher Education since 2010-11, covers all the Higher Educational Institutions in the country
  • The survey collects data on several parameters like teachers, student enrolment, programmes, examination results, education finance, infrastructure, etc
  • The survey findings were based on responses of 795 universities, 34,193 colleges and 7,496 standalone institutions
  • ASER took a year off to reflect and consolidate the learnings from the last 10 years.


About Data Collection:

  • Household survey of a representative sample of rural children of India. Every rural district. Govt schools also visited.
  • 30 villages randomly selected in each district
  • 20 households randomly selected in each village
  • All children age 3-16 in household surveyed
  • All children age 5-16 in household assessed
  • One-on-one assessment with each child
  • Basic reading, arithmetic for all (age 5-16).
  • ‘Beyond Basics’ (for age 14-16 only)
  • Same tasks with all children several samples used


The important findings from the ASER 2018 survey are:

  • For the first time since the introduction of the Right to Education Act, India witnessed tangible improvements in the quality aspects. The study shows that more than half (50.5%) of all children in Class 5 can read a Class 2 textbook, up from 46.9% in 2012.
  • The proportion of children in Class 5 who can do simple division has gone up from 24.9% in 2012 to 27.9% in 2018.
  • The reading levels of class 3, which was assessed by the ability to read Class 2 textbooks was inching up since the low of 2010 (19.5%) and now stands at 27.2%.
  • Government schools in eight states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh have recorded a growth in basic reading levels of more than 5 percentage points over 2016.
  • Government schools in 10 states of Punjab, UP, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Nagaland Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh have recorded a growth of more than 5 percentage points in basic arithmetic levels 2016.
  • Kerala tops in Class 5 reading levels with 77.5%, up from 69.4% in 2016. This growth is driven by state-run schools i.e.10% rise in reading levels in government schools compared to 7.3% in private schools.
  • The government schools in Uttar Pradesh have registered an 11.9% jump in reading skills for Class 5 students while private schools saw only a 7.6% rise.
  • Wide-disparities among states in learning levels. In Uttar Pradesh, over 60% of Class 3 children cannot recognize letters or read words whereas in Himachal Pradesh over 70% of children are either at grade-level or only close behind.
  • 1 out of 4 children in rural India leaves Class 8 without basic reading skills and over half of them (55.9%) without basic numerical literacy or without the ability to do a simple division sum.
  • 1% of children in the 15-16 age group are not in school.
  • Only a quarter of all children in Class 3 are at their grade-level, only 27.2% of these children can read a Class 2 textbook and only 28.1% can do Class 2-level subtraction.


Is this learning deficit prevalent only in government schools?

  • The deficit is across government and private schools.
  • Traditionally, students in private schools have fared better than their government school counterparts, but that’s a relative situation.
  • For example, while 40% of Class VIII students in government schools can do simple division, the figure is 54.2% in private schools.
  • But this success rate is three percentage points below that of 2012 and the same as in 2014.
  • “Private school students are believed to have better family background, both in economic and education front.


Three clear national trends:

  • Basic math levels remain low. In Std VIII, more than half of all children are still struggling with division
  • Additional ‘value added’ in terms of math skills for each year of schooling is low
  • Experiences of each subsequent cohort is unchanged over time

The ABCs of the report


Learning for all children has to be a priority:

  • Basic reading and math in early grades showing improvement in many states. Need to build on this momentum and sustain improvements.
  • Helping children acquire skills of reading and basic math by the end of Std II or beginning of Std III will significantly reduce learning gaps in later stages.
  • If children cannot read satisfactorily, pen-and-paper tests are not appropriate. Therefore, for Std III & even for Std V to assess foundational skills, oral/one-onone methods are needed.
  • Regardless of age and grade, it is important to focus immediately on building foundational skills. Without foundations in place, children cannot meaningfully benefit from additional years in school.
  • Many children completing Std VIII are unprepared for higher studies or for the labour market. Preparation for school, work, and life is needed by this stage.


Sample Question:

Discuss the highlights of recently released Annual State of Education Report (ASER) 2018?