ASER survey paints bleak portrait of India's rural education system: Students struggle with reading, arithmetic, general knowledge

India is failing to train adolescents (aged 14 to 18) in rural schools, with most not being able to retain skills learnt in earlier classes, reveals the 2017 edition of the Annual Survey of Education Report (ASER), brought out by education advocacy Pratham.

One in every 10 and every four rural Indians aged 14-18 years could not read a Class I and Class II text (books meant for children aged 5-7 years) in their own language, said the ASER report, released on 16 January, 2018.

Only 64 percent of rural adolescents could name India's capital, with some unable to even grasp the question, identifying the capital as "Pakistan" or "China".

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Girls in rural Indian schools are better at recognising numbers up to 99, but lag boys in many parameters, including financial knowledge, using an ATM or telling the time.

Only 43 percent of adolescents in rural schools were able to divide a three-digit number by a one-digit number, a primary level skill. Only 23 percent were able to subtract and 66 percent could not recognise numbers below 99. Women were better than men.

The share of 125 million Indians aged 18 enrolled in an educational programme had risen to 70 percent in ASER 2017 from 44 percent in 2011, the report said. The ASER survey interviewed 28,323 adolescents in 23,868 households in 26 rural districts across 24 states during October to December 2017 and collected information on: Activity (calculation and daily tasks), ability (reading and numeracy skills), awareness and aspirations.

Overall, 86 percent of adolescents aged 14 to 18 were enrolled in the formal education system. While 54 percent of youth in this age group were enrolled in Class X or below (54 percent), 25 percent were in Class XI or Class XII, while six percent were in undergraduate or other degree courses. Only 14 percent students were not enrolled in any form of formal education.

Enrolment In An Educational Institution Among 14- To 18-Year-Olds In Rural India

Enrollment in an educational institution among 14-18 year old students in rural India

More women drop out as age increases

The enrollment gap between men and women increased with age. At 14, the difference between the male and female non-enrollment was 1 percentage point, with 4.7 percent males not enrolled against 5.7 percent females; it rises to 4 percentage points by age 18, with 32 percent females not enrolled against 28 percent males.

One in every five adolescents had completed less than eight years of schooling. The rate was about the same for men and women.

Only 43 percent were able to divide a three-digit number by a one-digit number. At 39.5 percent, fewer women were able to divide than men (47 percent). Only 23 percent of adolescent students were able to subtract, and there was no difference in the performance of men and women. Only 34 percent recognised numbers below 99, though more women (38 percent) could do so as compared to men (30 percent).

While 86 percent youth could solve an easy problem of measuring length (90 percent men and 83 percent women), only 40 percent could solve a harder problem (48 percent among men and 32.5 percent among women).

Only half of the sample could apply the unitary method (59 percent of men and 43 percent of women), which involves finding the value of one unit from the given value of a multiple to find the value of another multiple (for example, finding the cost of one napkin from the cost of 10 napkins to finally find the cost 13 napkins), while and 39 percent could tell the time (43.6 percent of men and 34 percent of women).

Arithmetic and common calculation skills among youth aged 14-18 in rural India

While 58 percent adolescents in the sample could read an English sentence (explain at least two of the four sentences given in the ASER test in their local language), more men (61 percent) could do so than women (55.5 percent).

While three in four adolescents could count money, far more men (82 percent) could do so than women (70 percent). However, more women (76 percent) had bank accounts than men (72 percent).

However, men were ahead of women on all other measures of financial participation: Depositing or withdrawing money (54 percent against 48 percent for women), using an ATM (22 percent against 10 percent for women), and using internet banking (7 percent as against 2 percent of women).

Men were also better at financial tasks, such as managing a budget (67 percent against 60 percent of women) or making purchases (67 percent, against 61 percent of women).

General and financial skills among youth aged 14-18 in rural India

Men want to be soldiers or engineers, women aspire to be teachers or nurses

The ASER survey found that 17.6 percent of adolescent males wanted to join the army or the police, and 11.6 percent wanted to become engineers. Among women, 25 percent wanted to teach while 18 percent wanted to become doctors or nurses.

No more than 13 percent of adolescent males and 9 percent of women sought a government job. Only 1 percent of all adolescents in the sample wanted to work in agriculture.

Almost 40 percent reported having no role models for the occupation they aspired to join. While 60 percent wanted to study beyond school, 8 percent didn't know till what level they would study, while and 4 percent did not want to study any further.

60.1 percent wanted to study beyond Class VII, while 4.4 percent didn't want to study further

60.1 percent wanted to study beyond Class VII, while 4.4 percent didn't want to study further

Of the 5 percent youth enrolled in vocational training, 59 percent were in courses lasting less than six months, 24 percent in year-long courses, 12 percent in two-year-long courses and 6 percent in courses that were more than two years long. Among those studying, 38.5 percent were working and 60 percent of those not studying were working. Most helped out with their family's agriculture work; 76 percent of those studying and 56 percent of those not studying.

Working Youth Among 14- To 18-Year-Olds In Rural India
Category Worked 15 or more days last month Did not work 15 or more days last month
Total Family agriculture Other’s farm Family business Other’s business
In school or college 38.5% 75.8% 4.9% 15.6% 3.7% 61.5%
Not studying 60.2% 56.1% 15.7% 12.6% 15.6% 39.8%
All youth 41.6% 71.7% 7.1% 15.0% 6.2% 58.4%

Source: Annual Status of Education Report 2017

India’s capital: Pakistan, China or Delhi?

While 86 percent in the sample could recognise India's map (89 percent of men and 83 percent of women), only 64 percent could name India's capital (69 percent of men and 60 percent of women). Some even thought Pakistan or China could be India's capital, Manju, one of ASER's surveyors in Rajasthan, said during the launch of the report. Only 42 percent could identify their own state on a map (49 percent among men and 36 percent among women).

More women could not answer questions than men

For every one of the 24 assessment tasks administered in the survey, more women than men did not even attempt a response.

Asked to identify their state on the map, 21 percent of adolescent males did not attempt an answer, against 32 percent of females.

Asked to calculate the amount to be repaid on a bank loan after a year, 21 percent of men did not answer against 29 percent of women.

Asked to calculate the total weight from a picture with a set of six weights (the kind used to weigh vegetables in the market), 4.8 percent of men did not attempt an answer against 13.5 percent of women.

To a question that asked them to add the amounts in a picture of four currency notes, 2.5 percent of men did not attempt an answer against 5 percent of women.

Read the full report here:

Vivek is an analyst with IndiaSpend


Updated Date: Jan 17, 2018 10:31 AM

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