The impact of the pandemic and prolonged school closure was evident in the results of the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2022) survey, released on Wednesday. It indicated a drop in the basic reading ability and arithmetic levels of children at the State and national levels.
After 2018, the survey returned to the field in 2022, and 30,737 children across 920 villages in 31 districts of the State participated in the study.
While only 10.2% of Class 3 children from government and private schools could read a Class 2-level text in 2018, this dropped further to 4.8% in 2022. Tamil Nadu was among the States with the lowest reading levels. Nationally as well, the figure dropped from 27.3% in 2018 to 20.5% in 2022. This, the survey report said, took the outcomes to pre-2012 levels, reversing the slow improvements achieved in the intervening years.
The survey’s findings indicated a similar dip in basic reading levels among Class 5 children who were able to read a Class 2-level text, and Class 8 students who could read a Class 2-level text in Tamil Nadu and across the country. As for basic arithmetic, only 11.2% of the children surveyed in Class 3 were able to do subtraction, and 14.9% from Class 5 were able to do division.
Tamil Nadu saw a significant jump in enrolment in government schools. While enrolment had declined from 78.3% to 67.4% between 2006 and 2018, it had increased to 75.7% in 2022. The numbers in anganwadis, too, saw an increase when compared to 2018. While teacher attendance in primary schools had consistently remained above 90% over the years, student attendance saw a slight dip, by 2.3%.
Following the prolonged closure of schools, the Tamil Nadu government had launched the Ennum Ezhuthum Mission to address shortcomings in foundational literacy and numeracy (FLN) among primary school students. This was evident in the findings of the survey, which indicated that nearly 90% of schools had a teacher trained in FLN.
“While interventions such as Ennum Ezhuthum are working on addressing FLN in Classes 1 to 3, more such targeted interventions in the classroom will greatly benefit middle school students as well. Temporary teachers, if appointed across all government schools, can be roped in to specifically work on reading and arithmetic levels in middle school students,” said S. Gokulakrishnan, headquarters secretary, Tamil Nadu Teachers’ Association.