The annual state of education Report ASER is a nationwide survey of rural education and learning outcomes in terms of reading and arithmetic skills in the age group of 5-16 years.It is conducted by the NGO Pratham for the last 15 years.In the backdrop of Pandemic, this year, the survey was conducted via phone calls, reaching 52,227 rural households with school-age children in 26 States and 4 Union Territories.In 2016, ASER switched to an alternate-year cycle where the “basic” ASER is conducted every other year (2016, 2018) and in alternate years ASER focuses on a different aspect of children’s schooling and learning.Last basic survey was conducted in 2018. Present one is the 15th annual survey.According to ASER (Annual State of Education Report) survey conducted in September, 20% of rural children have no textbooks at home (also means 80% students have textbooks).This proportion of students having textbooks is higher among students enrolled in government schools (84.1%) than in private schools (72.2%).In Andhra Pradesh, less than 35% of children had textbooks, and only 60% had textbooks in Rajasthan. More than 98% had textbooks in West Bengal, Nagaland and Assam.It found that 5.3% of rural children aged 6-10 years had not yet enrolled in school this year, in comparison to just 1.8% in 2018.Non-enrolment is visible mostly among youngest children (age 6 and 7), may be due to delay in admission owing topandemic.Among 15-16 years old, however, enrolment levels are actually slightly higher than in 2018.Enrolment patterns also show a slight shift toward government schools, with private schools seeing a drop in enrolment in all age groups.55 per cent children in 6-14 age groups are enrolled in government schools, up from 66.42 per cent in 2018.Proportion of boys enrolled in government schools rose from 62.8% in 2018 to 66.4% in 2020. Proportion of girls enrolled in government schools rose from 70% to 73%.As many as 24.3 percent of children said they had not received any learning material from the school in the week the survey was held because they had no Smartphone.6% of students in government schools are without access to a smartphone.Regardless of school type, WhatsApp was the most common medium through which activities and materials were received. However, this proportion was much higher among children in private schools (87.2%) than those in government schools (67.3%).Family education.Almost 40% in low education households got no materials and did no learning, compared to 17% of high education families.In the week of the survey, one in three rural children had done no learningactivity at all.About two in three had no learning materials or activity given by their school that week, and only one in ten had access to live online classes.A surge in the use of smartphones (as compared to 2018) has not been accompanied by greater access. Smartphone ownership has almost doubled from 2018 thus it is not only about technology, one third of children with Smartphone access still did not receive any learning materials.Inherited disadvantages continue to affect the quality of learning, low education of families affecting their children’s education.Students in rural areas have received very marginal assistance in the form of structured learning from teachers. They mostly had to rely on parents and siblings to study at home.Students, specifically from lower classes, could use the safety of the open countryside to learn a variety of topics by doing themselves, under guidance from teachers. Observational learning like that will create a strong foundation.Online education world is full of information on everything. Educational video, which has helped thousands, can advance learning even beyond pandemic, usingtalented teacher-communicators.States such as Tamil Nadu and Kerala have already hosted curriculum-based video lessons on the Internet, after beaming them on television.It will take out-of-the-box thinking during the pandemic to come up with interventions that are a substitute for traditional methods and prevent 2020 from becoming a zero year.Way forwardAs soon as the schools open, it will be important to observe, what percentage of students go back to schools and whether there is learning loss as compared toprevious years.It is important to note that 80% of families provided learning support to children, now schools should find ways to build on that home support. ‘Reaching parents at the right level’ is essential to understand how they can help their children.Centre and the State governments should plan remedial measures to make “Hybrid learning” possible for students that combine traditional teaching-learning with newer ways of “reaching-learning”.Schools opting out for a hybrid solution of partial reopening and online learning should ensure expanding the availability of textbooks for all students including those who dropped out or waiting to be formally admittedGovernment must try to bridge the digital divide by providing needy families the necessary support in terms of equipment and access to the internet.
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