The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2022 for Rural India was released by Pratham Foundation, Wednesday. ASER is a field-based “basic” nationwide survey and comes after a gap of four years, at a time when children are back in schools after an extended period of closure owing to the pandemic.
In various markers, Gujarat finds itself at the lowest in terms of academic achievement. To begin with, the enrolment rate of kids in Anganwadis saw a sharp decline as compared to pre-Covid figures of 2018. Alongside, there has been a rise in the proportion of children in the 3-4 years age group who are yet to be enrolled in pre-primary schools in Gujarat.
The pandemic and its lockdowns seem to have interrupted the steady improvement the state witnessed between 2014 and 2018 in reading and math, the study finds.
The state also witnessed the lowest proportion of Class 5 students across India who could read simple sentences in English. The study reveals that Gujarat has fared poorly in most areas compared to the rest of India between 2018 and 2022 with reading capabilities down from 52% to 33.9%.
Likewise, reading abilities for Class 3 students plunged from 32.3% in 2018 to 23.2% in 2022. In this, Gujarat fares abysmally low in the list where usual high-rankers Kerala, Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh seem to have held on to better figures.
Another worrying find has been that 52% Class VIII students studying in government schools in Gujarat state are at Class II proficiency level where it comes to reading. A report in 2018, before the pandemic, had concluded the number at 72%.
The survey was conducted across 26 districts (30 villages per district) of Gujarat. As many as 20,330 children between three and 16 years were surveyed and 16,310 children between five and 16 years were tested in the rural areas for the report.
The report sampled 16,500 children aged 6 to 14 years from 15,200 families for the ASER reading and mathematics assessments.
Where it comes to Maths, a total 35.8% students attuned to the subject basics in 2018, are down to 31.3% in 2022. Even among Class V students, the percentage of kids easy with Maths is down from 18.4% to 14.5% in the corresponding period.
According to state education Secretary Vinod Rao: “Learning took a backseat during the pandemic and Gujarat is no exception. Our assessment puts the numbers at a less worrisome turn. As far as the ASER report is concerned, we have to study the findings before being able to comment.”
When asked to comment, Digvijaysingh Jadeja, president, Gujarat State Primary Teachers’ Association, stated that many government schools shut down during the pandemic: “We have to start with an aggressive zeal because nearly 25% students across each grade stand affected. We are planning additional classes once schools start again.”