Although, Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2022 red-flagged on the declining learning ability of the children in rural areas. The two-year-long gap from classroom education had taken back the learning ability of children to the pre-2012 level.
Despite the COVID-induced school shutdown, the children are once again coming to the classrooms as the latest Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2022 shows that the enrollment rate of students across all age groups has seen a significant increase.
In comparison to the pre-covid period (2018), the overall enrollment ratio across all groups has increased to 98.4 per cent from 97.2 per cent in 2018. However, there is still 1.6 per cent of students, who are not enrolled on the schools, reveal the report.
Speaking about the dip in the proportion of children who are not enrolled on schools, Madhav Chavan, President and member of the Board of Directors of Pratham Education Foundation said, “Fears had been expressed that economic stress might lead to children dropping out of school but this has not happened. Instead, the already low proportion of not-enrolled children in the 6-14 age group has halved from 2.8 per cent to 1.6 per cent over four years.”
The ASER conducted this survey across 616 districts and a total of 19,060 villages in rural India. In this survey, a total of 3,74,544 households and 6,99,597 children in the age group of 3 to 16 were surveyed.
The report further highlighted that the rift between girls and education is becoming shallower as the proportion of girls not enrolled in schools decreased by two per cent in comparison to 2018. Uttar Pradesh has the highest proportion of girls not enrolled in schools i.e four per cent.
Along with the rising overall enrollment in the period 2018-2022, in practically all age groups, there has been a significant shift in enrollment away from private schools to government schools.
For the country as a whole (all of India rural), the percentage of all children aged 11 to 14 who are enrolled in government schools has risen from 65 per cent in 2018 to 71.7 per cent in 2022.
Rukmani Banerjee, the Chief Executive officer of Pratham foundation stated two reasons behind this shift; first, if family income goes down or becomes more uncertain, it is likely that parents may not be able to afford private schools. They are likely to pull their children out of private schools and put them in government schools. Secondly, many low-budget private schools had to shut down during the COVID as it was not economically viable to retain the staff.
Surprisingly, the proportion of students who take private tuition increased nationally across classes I to VIII. In 2018, the percentage of students who take private tuition was 26.4 per cent, which increased to 30.5 per cent in 2022. In Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Jharkhand, the proportion of children receiving paid private tuition rose by 8 percentage points or more.
The ASER report red-flagged on the declining learning ability of the children in rural areas. The two-year-long gap from classroom education had taken back the learning ability of children to the pre-2012 level. The loss of children’s ability to read and do basic numeracy is visible in both private and government schools and in almost all states.
In government or private schools, the proportion of third-graders who can read at the level of class two fell from 27.3 per cent in 2018 to 20.5 per cent in 2022, said the report. This trend is more visible in the states that had higher reading levels in 2018.
Reading proficiency fell from 22.6 per cent to 10.3 per cent in Andhra Pradesh and from 18.1 per cent to 5.2 per cent in Telangana, the two states most impacted.
The proportion of fifth-grade children in public and private schools who can atleast read a text at the class two level fell from 50.5 per cent in 2018 to 42.8 per cent in 2022. For the eighth grade, the fall is less steep but still discernible, with 69.6 per cent of pupils in this grade being able to read at least basic literature in 2022 as opposed to 73 per cent in 2018.
Following the pandemic, children’s Mathematics and English comprehension skills nationwide have also declined, underlined the ASER report.
According to the research, the proportion of third-grade students in India who can at least subtract decreased from 28.2 per cent in 2018 to 25.9 per cent in 2022. Fifth-grade students’ ability to divide has significantly decreased from 27.9 per cent to 25.6 per cent by 2022.
The survey also noted that from 44.1 per cent in 2018 to 44.7 per cent in 2022, the percentage of eighth-grade students who can divide has marginally grown.
According to the ASER study, girls and students enrolled in government schools, both saw improvements in their performance, while boys and students enrolled in private schools saw declines from 2018 levels.
In terms of facilities in school premises, the condition has marginally improved in all Right to Education-related indicators over 2018 levels.
The fraction of schools with useable girls’ toilets increased from 66.4 per cent in 2018 to 68.4 per cent in 2022, finds the survey.
In the same time period, the percentage of schools with access to drinking water went from 74.8 per cent to 76 per cent, and the percentage of schools where students use books outside textbooks increased from 36.9 per cent to 44 per cent.
The national averages, however, conceal significant state-by-state differences. For instance, the percentage of schools in Punjab and Andhra Pradesh with access to drinking water climbed from 82.7 per cent in 2018 to 92.7 per cent, respectively, from 58.1 per cent in 2018. Drinking water availability decreased from 88 per cent to 71.8 per cent in Gujarat and from 76.8 per cent to 67.8 per cent in Karnataka during the same time period.