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NCERT releases survey on students’ learning ability

Education, Outcomes


Live Mint & The Wall Street Journal

New Delhi: Almost two-thirds of the students in Class 3 can read and understand simple text, and do basic math such as addition and subtraction, according to the findings of the national achievement survey (NAS) 2014 by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT).

The survey attempts to gauge the improvement in learning outcomes by assessing student abilities in language and mathematics. The survey’s results should be compared with the findings of NCERT’s Mid-term Achievement Survey for Class 3 conducted between 2005 and 2008, but the agency didn’t release those numbers and Mint couldn’t immediately access them.

In general, though, NCERT’s outcome measures have always shown India faring better than non-government organization Pratham’s Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) studies. While ASER is conducted on households, NCERT’s surveys are conducted in schools.

In NCERT’s surveys, in language, students are tested on their ability to read and understand text and to listen to and recognize words. In mathematics, students are required to perform basic functions.

The survey was based on information gathered from a sample of more than 104,000 students in 7,046 schools across 34 states and union territories.

Two in three students were able to listen to a passage and understand it but only three in five students were able to read a passage and comprehend it.

And while two in three students were able to solve problems relating to simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, geometry and measurement, the number of students who could perform division was just slightly more than one in two.

In most states, there was no significant difference in the quality of learning between boys and girls. Madhya Pradesh was the only Indian state where girls lagged boys in the learning outcome in language. In Kerala, girls outperformed boys in both language and mathematics.

The rural-urban divide also seems to have been bridged with most of the Indian states showing no significant disparity between rural and urban students.

“Overall, Class 3 children in 34 states/UTs were able to answer 64% of language items correctly and 66% of mathematics questions correctly,” the report said. “This National Achievement Survey for class 3 reveals learning outcome trends to be encouraging but still some way to go. Persistence pays,” tweeted Human Resource Development minister M.M. Pallam Raju.

ASER, prepared by the non-profit Pratham Education Foundation, has been highlighting the worsening quality of the Indian education system. The report, released last month, had pointed out that the quality of learning, measured by reading, writing, and arithmetic, had either shown no improvement or actually worsened in the nine years of the United Progressive Alliance government’s rule.

The ASER report showed that the proportion of all children in Class 5 who can read a Class 2 level text has declined by almost 15 percentage points since 2005. Similarly, the portion of students in Class 8 who can do divisions has declined by almost 23 percentage points during the same period.

“Till now, most of the focus has been to ensure access to education. But we have now reached a tipping point where outcomes have also become equally important”, said Yamini Aiyar, director, Accountability Initiative, Centre for Policy Research.

The fund allocation for better outcomes is still small. Out of the total funds allocated for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), the amount spent on two quality-related items—learning enhancement programmes and innovation—is meagre, she said.

The NAS survey also revealed significant disparities across states. States like Bihar, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttarakhand lagged the national average score in both language and mathematics. Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka were some of the states that outperformed the national average.

Narayanan Ramaswamy , partner and head of education practice at consulting company KPMG, said: “We are not getting the basics right. Enough focus is not going on our curriculum. If the input is not right, then how will the output be good?”, he said.


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