No significant difference between rural and urban outcomes

The government’s own assessment of how much children are learning in schools says that 86 per cent of children in class III can recognise words in their own language and 69 per cent can do simple numerical additions. Maharashtra and the four southern States, Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur perform better than the national average on both tests. The findings of the third cycle of the National Council of Education Research and Training's (NCERT) National Achievement Survey (NAS) for Class III, released on Friday, show that the national average score on a series of questions for language is 257 out of 500 and that for mathematics is 255 out of 500. There was no significant difference between rural and urban outcomes in most States, and between boys and girls (except in Madhya Pradesh, where girls did significantly worse, and in Kerala, where girls did significantly better.)

These findings are on the whole more positive for the government than those brought out by non-governmental groups, like the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) produced by the NGO Pratham. While the government continued not to refer to the ASER report directly, it made veiled references to the evaluations that have repeatedly shown the quality of education in rural schools in a poor light. “This is not a dipstick, slapdash job,” Union Minister for Human Resource Development Pallam Raju said at the report's release. “This is a very detailed and comprehensive evaluation, using internationally accepted measures. It shows that the State of learning is not as dismal as is being projected,” he said.

ASER representatives told The Hindu earlier that the NAS and their survey measured different outcomes. ASER 2013 covered 3 lakh households in rural India alone, is carried out at the home and is administered to all school-going children to determine their minimum abilities.

The NAS covered 1 lakh class III students in their classrooms in both rural and urban India, and tested them on grade-relevant questions only.

Within Language, children were scored on their ability to listen to and understand a passage, recognise words and read an understand a passage. 86% nationally were able to recognise words, 65% to understand a passage they had listened to and 59% to understand a passage they had read. According to the ASER report for 2013, on the other hand, just 63% of children in class III could recognise words, and just 21% could read a class II-level paragraph.

For Mathematics, children were tested on their ability to perform simple calculations, do simple geometry and detect patterns, among others. The NAS results say that 65% were able to do subtractions and 57% division, while ASER found just 26% able to do subtractions in class III and just 7.4% able to do divisions.

Tamil Nadu, which ranks as the worst state for language and second worst for math according to ASER, is India's best state for mathematics and third best for language, according to the NAS.

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