What’s in the news?
- The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) Chhattisgarh (Rural) 2021 has revealed that the proportion of primary school children who cannot recognize letters of the alphabet has doubled since 2018, and fewer students can now do basic subtraction or division.
- The survey underlines the learning crisis unleashed by pandemic-induced disruptions since March 2020, when states stopped in-person classes and switched to online teaching.
The survey and sample
- The two-stage survey was conducted in October-November 2021 in 28 districts of Chhattisgarh, which lag behind in several social indicators. The survey covered 46,021 children belonging to 33,432 households in 1,677 villages.
- Trained surveyors were fielded to assess whether children were acquiring foundational reading and arithmetic skills.
Key findings: reading abilities
- Both reading and numerical abilities have taken a severe beating, the survey found.
- The proportion of children who were unable to recognise even letters in classes 2, 3, and 6 has doubled since 2018 — from 19.5% to 37.6% for children in class 2, 10.4% to 22.5% in class 3, and 2.5% to 4.8% in class 6.
- Only 12.3% pupils in class 3 were able to read class 2-level text, down from 29.8% in 2018.
Key findings: arithmetic
- The proportion of children who were unable to recognise even single-digit numbers has increased since 2018 from 11.4% to 24.3% in class 2, and from 1.7% to 4.5% in class 5.
- Only 4.3% students in class 5 can do basic divisions, down from 11.3% in 2018, when a field survey was last undertaken in the state.
- This fall was from 29.8% to 18.2% among students of class 6. Nine per cent students of class 3 could carry out subtractions, as against 19.3% in 2018.
General situation pre-pandemic
- The report points out that both in terms of reading and numerical abilities, children have touched the lowest point in a decade.
- Back in 2014, 70.7% children in class 2 of government schools could read letters. This improved to 77.1% in 2016, and fell marginally in 2018 to 76.3%. In 2021, it had crashed to 57%.
- In the case of arithmetic, 14.2% of children in class 3 (in both government and private schools combined) could do subtractions in 2014; this rose to 20% in 2016, and fell slightly to 19.3% in 2016. In 2021, this number stood at just 9%.
- Among class 5 pupils, 18% could do division in 2018; this rose to 23.1% in 2016 and 26.9% in 2018, and fell to 13% in 2021.
State of enrollment
- The findings on enrollment in Chhattisgarh are among the very few positive aspects in the state captured by the survey.
- The survey found an increase in government school enrollment from 76.4% in 2018 to 82.9% in 2021 in the age group of 6-14 years. More importantly, the enrollment rates did not fall during the pandemic, the survey found. These findings were more true for girl students than boys.
Other states and studies
- ASER’s flagship annual survey, facilitated by the Pratham Foundation, was phone-based in 2021. It focused entirely on access to digital devices, enrollment in government and private schools, and dependency on tuition classes.
- ASER’s last field survey to assess learning outcomes was carried out in Karnataka in March 2021. That survey found a 16 percentage point rise in class 1 students who were unable to read letters, and a 12 percentage point increase in class 1 students who were unable to recognise numbers.
- A study carried out by Azim Premji University in 1,137 public schools across Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttarakhand in January 2021 had found that 92% of primary school students had lost at least one language ability from the previous year, and 82% of students in classes 2-6 had lost at least one mathematical ability during the same period.