The percentage of children in the age group of six to 14 years who are out of school has decreased in Mysore division comprising Mysore, Mandya, Chamarajnagar, Hassan, Kodagu, Chikmagalur, Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts, according to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER)-2012 for Rural Karnataka which was released in Mysore recently. The annual study was facilitated by Pratham.

The divisional estimates of ASER-2012 for Rural Karnataka which have been accessed by The Hindu , reveal that the percentage of children who were out of school in 2012 was 0.45, while it was 1.20 in 2011 and 1.69 in 2010.

The report states that the percentage of children (six to 14 years of age) enrolled in private schools had increased.

In 2012, 26.56 per cent enrolled in private schools while it was 26.51 in 2011.

With regard to learning levels among children studying in Standards I and II, the percentage of children who can read letters or more was 90.59 in 2012.

If the data of 2011 was compared, the learning levels are on the decline since the percentage of children who could read letters or more in that year was 91.03 per cent.

The percentage was even higher in 2010 at 93.99. In 2008 and 2009, it was 89.99 and 91.53 respectively, according to the estimates.

Also, the percentage of children in Standards I and II who could recognise numbers from 1 to 9 or more is also declining in Mysore division. According to the ASER-2012 report, 89.55 per cent of children in the division could recognise the numbers from 1 to 9 or more in 2012. This was 90.56 per cent in 2011 and 90.99 percent in 2010.

Learning level

Even the learning level among children in Standard III and V is also on the decline. In 2012, the percentage of children who can read Standard 1 text or more was 67.65 whereas the percentage was 71.15 in 2011 and 72.50 in 2010.

Even the national-level private school enrolment has been rising steadily since 2006, the report states. It is also rising in Mysore division. The percentage of six to 14-year-olds enrolled in private schools rose from 18.7 in 2006 to 25.6 in 2011. In 2012, the number further increased to 28.3 per cent.

The increase is almost equal in primary (Standard I to V) and upper primary (Standard VI to VIII) classes.

In 2012, among all private schoolchildren (age 6 to 14 years), 57.9 per cent were boys.

The findings of ASER-2012 suggest that the private school enrolment in rural areas has been on the rise at an annual rate of 10 per cent since 2009. “If this trend continues, by 2018, India will have 50 per cent of children in rural areas enrolled in private schools,” the report stated.

Even as the number of children enrolled in private schools has shown marginal rise in Mysore division, the enrolment numbers remain very high at the national level, at over 96 per cent. This is the fourth consecutive year that enrolment levels have been 96 per cent or more, according to the report.

Nationally, the proportion of children (age 6 to 14 years) who are not enrolled in school has gone up slightly from 3.3 per cent in 2011 to 3.5 per cent in 2012.

Weak foundation

Pratham Mysore Managing Trustee Ashvini Ranjan, at the launch of ASER-2012 for Rural Karnataka in Mysore recently, expressed concern over the decline in reading levels among children and said learning could not happen on a “weak” foundation.

He suggested that the concerns have to be addressed on priority basis for a strong education foundation. Other than Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, all major States have registered a substantial drop in arithmetic learning levels.

The report said that 49 per cent of students in Standard VII can read simple sentences in English.

Reading task

In the ASER 2012 study, children were given a set of simple English reading and comprehension tasks. Across rural India, 48.9 per cent enrolled in Standard V could read English words or more; and 22.5 per cent could read simple English sentences.

Among all children in Standard VIII, 47 per cent could read sentences. Of those who could read words and sentences, well above 60 per cent could convey the meaning in their own language, the report states.

Shankar Bennur

A look at the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER)-2012 for rural Karnataka