India continued to fare poorly in the well-regarded Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) that measures overall learning level among Indian school students.
The number of students in rural India who have studied up to Class 8 has doubled in the past 10 years, but the skills they acquired have been "worryingly low”, found the survey.
The report, ‘Beyond Basics: A survey of Rural Indian Youth’, by NGO Pratham was released on Tuesday. It found that 86 per cent of India’s youth, between the ages of 14 and 18, are enrolled in formal education.
The survey for the ASER for rural India in 2017 was carried out in 28 districts spread across 24 states.
Alarmingly, the report says one-fourth of the country’s youngsters in the 14-18 age group cannot read their own language fluently, while 57% of them struggle to solve a simple sum of division.
Shown a map of India, 14% couldn’t identify it, 36% couldn’t name the country’s capital and 21% could not answer the state they live in, findings that expose the pathetic state of education in rural India.
Not just this. The survey says most of them cannot even tell the time correctly. "For the easy task (hour), 83% got it correct. But for the slightly harder task (hour and minutes) a little less than 60% got it right," it says. 76% of surveyed youth could not count money correctly.
"This scenario is pretty staggering and makes you think what’s going on and what should be done?” chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian said, referring to the survey’s finding that about 40% youth having no role-models for the profession they aspire to join.
"The learning outcomes of boys and girls are similar but in the age group of 14-18, the wedge is opening up between boys and girls. It’s important to address it ,” he added.
There is hardly any difference between boys’ and girls’ enrolment at age 14 but at age 18, at least 32% females are not enrolled as compared to 28% males.
A substantial proportion of youth in the 14-18 age group are working (42 per cent), regardless of whether they are enrolled in formal education or not. Of those who work, 79 per cent work in agriculture - almost all on their own family's farm. Close to 120 million youth are in the 14-18 age group today, according to the report.
"Unless we ensure that our young people reach adulthood with the knowledge, skills, and opportunities they need to help themselves, their families, and their communities move forward, India's much awaited 'demographic dividend' will not materialize. Our interactions with youth in this age group suggest that as a country we urgently need to attend to their needs. ASER 2017 is an attempt to shine a spotlight on this situation and hopefully start a nation-wide discussion about the way forward," NGO Pratham said.
Since 2006, the ASER has reported on the children’s schooling status and their ability to do basic reading and arithmetic tasks; it focused on 5-16 age group. In 2017, ASER focused on an older age group, youth who are 14 to 18 years old and have moved just beyond the elementary school age.