Prelims cum Mains

ASER: Uptick in primary reading and maths, government schools script turnaround

Why in news?

  • Recently, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 2018 has been released, conducted by NGO Pratham.

About Annual Status of Education Report (ASER)

  • This is an annual survey that aims to provide reliable estimates of children’s enrolment and basic learning levels for each district and state in India.
  • ASER has been conducted every year since 2005 in all rural districts of India.
  • It is the largest citizen-led survey in India.
  • ASER is a household-based rather than school-based survey.
  • Schooling status is recorded for children of ages 3-16, while children of ages 5-16 are tested for their ability to read simple text and do basic arithmetic.
  • It is also the only annual source of information on children’s learning outcomes available in India today.
  • It is a rural survey and urban areas are not covered.
  • ASER in other countries: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Pakistan, Mali and Senegal.

ASER- 2018

  • The survey covered around 3.5 lakh households and 546,527 children between the ages of three and 16 across 596 rural districts.
  • It is conducted by an autonomous unit of education-NGO Pratham.
  • Noted improvements :
    • The proportion of children not enrolled in school has fallen below 3% for the first time ever in India and stands at 2.8%.
    • The proportion of girls out of school has also declined, from 6% in 2010 to 4% in 2018.
    • The percentage of students in Class 3 who can read at Class 2 level has increased from 21.6% in 2013 to 27.2 % in 2018.
    • Increase in children enrolled in Class 5, who can read a Class 2 level text, was from 47.9% in 2016 to 50.3% in 2018.
    • States which showed improvement in basic reading levels (more than 5 percentage points over 2016): Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.
    • States which showed improvement in basic arithmetic levels(more than 5 percentage points over 2016): Punjab, UP, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh
  • These achievements are attributed to the Right To Education Act 2009 (RTE) legislation, which mandated free and compulsory education for 6-14 year olds and is credited with reducing “inequalities in access between states” and “beefed up infrastructure in government schools”.
  • Figures to be worried of:
    • Only 73% of Class 8 students in rural districts can read a Class 2 level text. However, 56% can’t solve a basic division problem.
    • 1 out of 4 children in rural India leaves Class 8 without basic reading skills and over half of them (55.9%) without basic numerical literacy or without the ability to do a simple division sum.
    • Only 28% of Class 5 students are able to do division, compared with 37% in 2008.


Issues highlighted by the Survey:

  • Learning outcomes witnessed a decline following the “push towards univeralization” after the RTE came into force in 2010.
  • While there have been improvements across numeracy and literacy indicators since 2010, levels remain below those seen a decade ago and significant disparities in learning outcomes across the nation’s states persist.
  • Poor performance in school-based reading and math tests also signals future problems in adulthood, as the lack of foundational skills impedes children’s ability to carry out basic life tasks.
  • The survey also highlighted wide-disparities among learning levels in states.


  • Governments should focus on raising the motivation level of teachers in their schools as this will go a long way in improving the quality of these institutions.
  • Improvements to the pupil-teacher ratio could help tackle varying abilities in classrooms, as more resources help reach a larger number of children and address specific learning challenges.

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