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  Opinion   Edit  19 Jan 2024  AA Edit | Quality of education must improve; girls need push

AA Edit | Quality of education must improve; girls need push

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Jan 19, 2024, 1:42 am IST
Updated : Jan 19, 2024, 1:42 am IST

ASER Report Highlights Education Challenges: Quality and Equity Crucial for Progress

ASER Report Reveals Education Disparities: Bridging Gaps for a Brighter Future. (PTI File Image)
 ASER Report Reveals Education Disparities: Bridging Gaps for a Brighter Future. (PTI File Image)

The latest edition of the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) was released on Wednesday and it offers a mixed bag of encouraging and off-putting outcomes. The key takeaways from the report that focuses on the state of education in rural India being that, as a nation, we must work on quality and equity.

The nationwide citizen-led household survey has provided a glimpse of the status of schooling and learning outcomes of students aged between 14 and 18 years, and it says that overall 86.8 per cent among all children are enrolled in either school or college, which is a decent number seen in the light of our historical backwardness. However, the discovery — that almost a third, or 32.6 per cent, of 18-year-olds do not attend college — is depressing. But the fact that a quarter of the teenagers surveyed cannot read a Class 2-level text fluently in their regional languages, and a substantial 42.7 per cent cannot even read sentences in English, are alarming finds.

The “Beyond Basics” survey, conducted among 34,745 young people in 28 districts across 26 states, pointed out that schooling has brought no significant change in their foundational literacy and numeracy skills, and this gets worse as the years pass by. The survey has found that 76.6 per cent could read a Class 2-level text in 2017, but that share declined, slightly, to 73.6 per cent in 2023. The scene, however, is better in arithmetic — while only 39.5 per cent of youth could do a simple division problem in 2017 — this has now gone up to 43.3 per cent. Yet, more than one half of the students struggle with division, unacceptable by all counts.

The survey report suggests that there are fewer takers for science and mathematics than for humanities, which is not a good sign. While the gender gap in enrolments is negligible, the survey shows that male candidates do better than female in their ability to apply basic numeracy and reading skills. More boys opt for studies in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) than girls. Almost two-thirds of the youth either do not have a computer or do not know how to use it. While 92 per cent students can use a smartphone, only 20 per cent males and nine per cent females have ever sent an email.

A refreshing piece of news that has come out of the survey is that the Covid-19 pandemic has not resulted in a massive drop-out of students as had been feared previously. The survey says the proportion of out-of-school children and youth has been declining as a result of the government’s push to universalise secondary education.

The sum of the survey findings indicate that the constitutional mandate to offer free and compulsory education for children up to 14 years has been met in a substantial measure in our country but we have not been able to retain the momentum when the age of the children goes up. The results also cast a shadow on the quality of education being imparted to them. We need a lot to do to ensure that our girls keep pace with boys.

While a large percentage of students drop out of the education system once they reach the age of 18 years, which presents its own set of problems, the overall outcome in terms of learning on the employability of our youth is disheartening. Will the new education policy currently being rolled out at least begin to address some of these questions?

Tags: aa edit, schooling of rural india, aser report, education