Enrollments Increased, But Learning Levels of Young Indian Children Dropped Significantly Post-COVID: Study

Post-pandemic, the enrollment of students has increased to more than pre-pandemic levels but the ability of young children to read text and arithmetic problems dropped to the lowest level since 2012. The details have been revealed in a latest Annual State of Education Report (ASER), released by the NGO Pratham on January 20, 2023 (Wednesday).

The national-level study shows that despite schools being closed during the pandemic, the overall enrolment figures, which have been above 95 per cent for the past 15 years for 6 to 14 years age group, increased from 97.2 per cent in 2018 to 98.4 per cent in 2022.

“Nationally, children’s basic reading ability has dropped to pre-2012 levels, reversing the slow improvement achieved in the intervening years,” the report read.

The report stated a decrease in the proportion of out-of-school girls, across the country and a sharp increase of 7.1 percentage in the number of children enrolled in pre-primary age groups in 2022, in comparison to 2018.

Notably, ASER is a household survey conducted across 616 rural districts and covers 6.9 Lakh children in the age group of 3 to 16 years to study trends in their schooling status and assess their basic reading and arithmetic skills.

The last routine survey, scheduled in 2020 was not done in a regular manner due to the pandemic. But the foundation released a report in 2021 considering some other aspects as it noted that the pandemic led to a large shift in students from private schools to government schools.

Here are the key findings of the report as per the classes:

Children in class 3 in government or private schools – who could read at the level of class 2 – dropped from 27.3% in 2018 to 20.5% in 2022.

More shocking details emerged among class fifth standard students – government and private – who could at least read a class 2 level text fell from 50.5% in 2018 to 42.8% in 2022. Andhra Pradesh (from 59.7% in 2018 to 36.3% in 2022), Gujarat (from 53.8% to 34.2%) and Himachal Pradesh (from 76.9% to 61.3%) were the few states which experienced sharp decrease.

In class 8 students, where 69.6% of children enrolled in government or private schools could read at least basic text – fell in 2022 from 73% in 2018. Boys and children enrolled in private schools showed a decline over 2018 levels in doing arithmetic division, while the figures showed significant improvement in government schools.

Families spending money on private tuition:

The report noted that families withdrew students from private schools to save money for tuition fees. The investments in private tuition classes, which increased as the proportion of such students rose further from 26.4% in 2018 to 30.5% in 2022 in both private and government schools.

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