Nationwide study shows Tamil Nadu is superior to other States when it comes to enrolment rates and infrastructure provided in rural schools

Schools in rural areas across the State may have improved infrastructure and enrolment rates, but children are still found lacking in basic learning skills.

These findings were revealed in the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) – 2013 released on Friday.

The ASER study, facilitated by non-governmental organisation Pratham, seeks to look at learning outcomes in children in the age group of 6 to 14 years, by testing their ability in reading and arithmetic, using simple tests.

The annual survey has been conducted across the country since 2002. This year, it was carried out with the help of nearly 690 volunteers from 21 NGOs who visited nearly 22,844 households in 811 villages across the State.

“Every village is surveyed first by the group of volunteers and then broken into four parts. Five households are chosen randomly from every part to get a sample data,” said M. Damodaran, project director, AID India.

Every child is asked to read a story in Tamil first. If found struggling, he/she is asked to read words and then identify letters.

Similarly, he/she is also asked to subtract two-digit numbers with the assumption that a student in class II knows to do so. Only 17.4 per cent of children in class III were able to do the simple math, the study found, while only 31.5 per cent of them could read a simple paragraph.

The survey revealed, 15.7 per cent of children going to government schools were enrolled for tuitions and nearly 26. 7 per cent in private schools did the same. There was, however, not much of a difference in their performances.

The report also revealed a substantial number of students had shifted from government-run schools to private ones. The enrolment rate in private schools was 15.7 per cent in 2007 and this increased to 30.2 in 2012, while in government schools, it had come down to 69.8 per cent from 84.3 per cent.

This again made no difference to students’ reading proficiency. However, in arithmetic skills, children of private schools were found to be better than their peers in government schools.

“We need to know why parents wish to admit their children into private schools instead of availing free education. It could be just a myth that private schools offer better education,” said educationist Vasanthi Devi.

M. Damodaran, who coordinated the survey in Tamil Nadu, said such an annual survey helped parents to understand their children’s academic status.

“It was shocking for many parents to see their children, despite going to school everyday, were not able to read a sentence or calculate a simple sum,” he said.

Tamil Nadu, according to the report, shows higher level of compliance to RTE rules that mandate teacher-student ratio, accessibility to toilets and drinking water.

The study also says Tamil Nadu’s levels in arithmetic have remained close to 40 per cent in the last five years while the figures have declined nationally.

Siddharth Varadarajan, editor, The Hindu, who was present when the report was unveiled, said the need for good, universal compulsory education was necessary for every country to make progress. Shortcomings in quality of education needed to be looked at effectively, he said.

Educationist S.S Rajagopal, journalist Gnani and state representative of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Henri Tiphagne, were among the speakers at the event.