Topics Covered: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
What to study?
For Prelims: Brief overview of stats.
For Mains: Concerns, challenges highlighted by the survey and ways and measures needed to address them.
Context: The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2019 has been published by education non-profit Pratham.
What is ASER and why it matters?
This is an annual survey that aims to provide reliable estimates of children’s enrolment and basic learning levels for each district and state in India.
ASER has been conducted every year since 2005 in all rural districts of India.
- It is the largest citizen-led survey in India.
- It is also the only annual source of information on children’s learning outcomes available in India today.
- Unlike most other large-scale learning assessments, ASER is a household-based rather than school-based survey. This design enables all children to be included – those who have never been to school or have dropped out, as well as those who are in government schools, private schools, religious schools or anywhere else.
How the survey was conducted?
- The survey was conducted in 26 districts across 24 states in India, covering a total of 1,514 villages, 30,425 households, and 36,930 children in the age group of 4-8 years.
- The sampled children’s enrolment status in pre-school or school was collected. Children did a variety of cognitive, early language, and early numeracy tasks; and activities to assess the children’s social and emotional development were also undertaken.
- All tasks were done one-on-one with children in their homes.
What is early years?
The latest edition focuses on early years.
It is defined globally as age 0-8, is known to be the most important stage of cognitive, motor, social and emotional development in the human life cycle.
- Only 16% of children in Class 1 in 26 surveyed rural districts can read text at the prescribed level, while almost 40% cannot even recognise letters.
- Only 41% of these children could recognise two digit numbers.
- Many Indian parents choose government schools for girls in the age group of 4 to 8 years while they favour private schools for boys.
- At least 25% of school children in the four-eight age group do not have age-appropriate cognitive and numeracy skills, making for a massive learning deficit at a very early stage.
- More than 90% of children in the 4-8 age group are enrolled in some type of educational institution. This proportion increases with age, from 91.3% of all 4-year-olds to 99.5% of all 8-year-olds in sampled districts.
- Children from less advantaged homes are disproportionately affected. Although almost half of all 4-year-olds and more than a quarter of all 5-year-olds are enrolled in anganwadis, these children have far lower levels of cognitive skill and foundational ability than their counterparts in private LKG/UKG classes.
- Overall, 41.7% of children in class I are of the RTE-mandated age.
- Children’s skills and abilities improve in each subsequent class. As per the report, “children’s ability to read standard I level text improves from 16.2% of children in standard I to 50.8% children in standard III. This means that half of all children in standard III are already at least two years behind where the curriculum expects them to be.”
Role of mothers:
Among the pre-primary section, children with mothers who completed eight or fewer years of schooling are more likely to be attending anganwadis or government pre-primary classes. Whereas their peers whose mothers studied beyond the elementary stage are more likely to be enrolled in private LKG/UKG classes.
- Focus on cognitive skills rather than subject learning in the early years can make a big difference to basic literacy and numeracy abilities.
- Children’s performance on tasks requiring cognitive skills is strongly related to their ability to do early language and numeracy tasks.
- This suggests that focussing on play-based activities that build memory, reasoning and problem-solving abilities is more productive than an early focus on content knowledge.
- Global research shows that 90% of brain growth occurs by age 5, meaning that the quality of early childhood education has a crucial impact on the development and long-term schooling of a child.
- The entire age band from 4 to 8 needs to be seen as a continuum, and curriculum progression across grades and schooling stages designed accordingly. For an effective and implementable curriculum, the process of designing, planning, piloting, and finalizing needs to keep ground realities in mind.
- Expand and strengthen the existing network of anganwadi centres.