Earlier this month the draft findings of the 2014 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) were published. Ash Patel, Educate for Life Founder and Trustee reflects on the latest findings.
The Pratham team which facilitates this annual survey is to be congratulated for their dedication and commitment to ascertaining child enrolment, attendance and achievement in rural schools across India. In a country where seven million children are not in school, this kind of data collection is essential to ensuring that the right interventions are in place to ensure universal access to education.
However access to education is one challenge, ensuring that children are actually making progress and learning is another. The report highlights a worrying development. There appears to be an ongoing decline in the achievement of younger children in terms of both their reading and numeracy skills. This has a significant impact upon children’s academic learning outcomes. As the report states: “Without being able to read well, a child cannot progress in the education system.” One reason behind this concerning trend may be that the survey team is improving its sampling processs and reaching an increasing number of deprived areas and communities. This will be affecting what the trends look like. The team may also be getting more accurate estimates of children’s capacity to read and carry out basic maths and again this will be impacting the emerging trends.
Regardless of the reasons behind the development, it is clear that more effort is needed to improve the teaching children receive when they first start school. The Right to Education Act 2009 has meant that many more children are being reported as enrolled in school and the elementary education system in India (both public and private) is struggling to meet their needs. It is fantastic that demand for education is increasing but there is an urgent need to address how the curriculum is taught so that children have a meaningful education. Teachers are over stretched and need more guidance and support to ensure better individual learning outcomes for their students, especially in rural areas where students are often first generation learners and cannot benefit from parental knowledge when developing their academic skills.
The data collected by ASER is an important step towards improving education in rural areas. It must be acted upon to ensure that all children have the ability to learn.