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Data | Post-COVID-19 math skills of students in southern and Western States dipped the most
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The adverse impact of the pandemic on arithmetic ability was more pronounced among boys in southern and western India

January 24, 2023 11:12 am | Updated 05:37 pm IST

Image for representation only.

Image for representation only. | Photo Credit: AP

The recently released Annual Status of Education Report (Rural) 2022 shows that the ability of schoolchildren to carry out simple arithmetic calculations was poor in most of the southern, central and western States compared to the children in many northern and eastern States.

While this observation is true both for the pre-and post-pandemic periods, the school closures forced by COVID-19 widened the gap further — the arithmetic learning outcomes of students from the south and west were impacted more than the learning outcomes of students in other regions. Notably, despite the pandemic, the arithmetic ability of children in the central States — Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh — improved markedly, though from a lower base. Moreover, in the south and west, the adverse impact of the pandemic on arithmetic ability was more pronounced among boys than girls.

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The ASER survey’s test of arithmetic ability consisted of four tasks. The first task was to recognise numbers 1 to 9. Those who completed this were asked to recognise numbers 11 to 99. Those who completed both tasks were presented with subtraction problems. And those who passed were presented with division sums.

Chart 1 shows the share of students in Classes V and VIII who could carry out all four tasks successfully. Each circle corresponds to a State, and India’s figures are depicted using a plus sign. The farther a circle to the right, the higher the share of students who could carry out all four tasks successfully. Chart 2 shows the same for the year 2018.

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Among the northern States, the share of such students in Class VIII was above the national average in Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana. Among the eastern States, Bihar’s figure was much higher than the national average. On the other hand, except in Andhra Pradesh, the share of such students was relatively low in the southern States. Among the western States, such as Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, the share of Class VIII students who were able to complete all the tasks successfully was even lower than in the southern States. The trend of northern States (except Jammu and Kashmir) leading, closely followed by the eastern States of Bihar and sometimes Jharkhand, the southern States (except Andhra Pradesh) middling and the central and western States near the bottom was also observed in the arithmetic performance of Class V students — with some exceptions. This trend was also true for 2018, as shown in Chart 2 .

Chart 3 shows the percentage of Class VIII children who completed all four tasks in 2022 and the change in percentage points from 2018. The States above the 0 mark saw an increase in the share of children who completed the tasks — all the central and eastern States are part of this group. The States below the 0 mark saw a decrease — all the southern and western States are part of this group except Andhra Pradesh. This graph shows that the pandemic had a disproportionately higher adverse impact on the arithmetic ability of children in the southern and western States.

And among the southern and western States, the adverse impact was higher among boys than girls, as shown in Chart 4. The chart shows the change in the share of Class VIII students who could complete division in 2022 compared to 2018 (in percentage points). For instance, the change was 6.4 percentage points among girls in Kerala and 8.7 percentage points among boys.

vignesh.r@thehindu.co.in, rebecca.varghese@thehindu.co.in

Source: Annual Status of Education Report (Rural)

Also read:Annual Status of Education Report 2022 flags widening learning gaps

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