An annual survey that aims to provide reliable annual estimates of children’s schooling status and basic learning levels has concluded that the reading level of Class 8 students, which was 74.7% in 2014 have decline to 73.1% in 2016.
Released in New Delhi on Wednesday, after a break of one year, the findings of the 11th Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2016) claims that only three out of every four children enrolled in Class 8 can read up to standard 2 level, which is the highest level of reading tested.
The survey says that nationally the reading ability has improved especially in early grades in government schools.
The state-wise picture for standard 8 reading levels does not show much improvement except for government schools in Manipur, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.
ASER is the largest annual household survey in rural India that focuses on the status of children’s schooling and basic learning. Facilitated by Pratham, the survey is carried out by volunteers from local partner organizations in almost all rural districts of India.
ASER 2016 reached out to 589 rural districts. The survey was carried out in 17,473 villages, covering 350,232 households and 562,305 children in the age group 3-16, said Ruknini Banerji of Pratham, while talking to HT over phone soon after releasing the report.
The report suggest that nationally, the proportion of children in Std III who are able to read at least standard I level text has gone up slightly, from 40.2% in 2014 to 42.5% in 2016. This proportion shows substantial increases among children in government schools in many states: Punjab, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Telangana.
All these states show an improvement of more than 7 percentage points since 2014. Overall reading levels in Std V are almost the same from 2011 to 2016.
However, the proportion of children in Std V who could read a standard 2 level text improved by more than 5 percentage points from 2014 to 2016 in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tripura, Nagaland and Rajasthan. This improvement is driven by gains in learning levels in government schools in these states.
Arithmetic shows improvement in government schools in primary grades. Although low, the all India (rural) figures for basic arithmetic have improved slightly for standard 3 in 2016 as compared to 2014. This is the first year since 2010, that there is an upward trend in arithmetic figures. In 2014, for the country 25.4% of class 3 children could do a 2-digit subtraction. This number has risen slightly to 27.7% in 2016. This improvement has come primarily from government schools where the percentage of standard 3 children who could do a 2-digit subtraction increased from 17.2% in 2014 to 20.2% in 2016.
In almost all states there is some improvement in the arithmetic levels of children enrolled in government schools in class 3. States with an increase of 5 percentage points or more since 2014 include Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha and Chhattisgarh. From 2014 to 2016, for class 5 children, the level of arithmetic as measured by children’s ability to do simple division problems has remained almost the same at 26%. Only five major states show an improvement of more than 5 percentage points. These are Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand.
However, the ability to do division among Std VIII students has continued to drop. This declining trend has been observed since 2010. The proportion of Std VIII students who could correctly do a 3-digit by 1-digit division problem was 68.4% in 2010. This number dropped to 44.2% in 2014, and has further declined to 43.3% in 2016. Only children in Manipur, Karnataka and Telangana show an increase of 5 percentage points or more.
Ability to read English is unchanged for lower primary grades. Assessments of basic English have been carried out in 2007, 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2016. Children’s ability to read English is slightly improved in Std III but relatively unchanged in Std V. In 2016, 32% children in Std III could read simple words in English as compared to 28.5% in 2009. In comparison, in 2016, 24.5% of children enrolled in Std V could read simple English sentences. This number remains unchanged since 2009.
However, a few states show improvements since 2014 for government school children enrolled in Std V. These states are Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Maharashtra and Kerala (all with improvements of 5 percentage points or more). In nine states, the levels of English reading of private schools has also improved. These are Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Assam, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.