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Annual Status of Education Report flags poor learning outcomes in schools

Children of Government Higher Primary School at Muthathi village in T. Narsipur taluk engaged in digital learning.

Children of Government Higher Primary School at Muthathi village in T. Narsipur taluk engaged in digital learning.  

‘Cognitive skills can help rural students’

Only 16% of children in Class 1 in 26 surveyed rural districts can read text at the prescribed level, while almost 40% cannot even recognise letters, according to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2019, released by NGO Pratham on Tuesday.

Only 41% of these children could recognise two digit numbers.

However, ASER found that the solution is not to spend longer hours teaching children the 3Rs.

Counter-intuitively, the report argues that a focus on cognitive skills rather than subject learning in the early years can make a big difference to basic literacy and numeracy abilities.

ASER surveyors visited almost 37,000 children between 4 and 8 years in 26 rural districts across 24 States.

They asked each child to do a variety of tasks testing cognitive skills — sort images by colour and size, recognise patterns, fit together a four-piece animal puzzle — as well as simple literacy and numeracy tests. Social and emotional development was tracked through activities using cards with faces showing happiness, sadness, anger and fear.

The survey shows that among Class 1 children who could correctly do none or only one of the tasks requiring cognitive skills, about 14% could read words, while 19% could do single digit addition. However, of those children who could correctly do all three cognitive tasks, 52% could read words, and 63% could solve the addition problem.

Annual Status of Education Report flags poor learning outcomes in schools
 

“ASER data shows that children’s performance on tasks requiring cognitive skills is strongly related to their ability to do early language and numeracy tasks,” says the report. “This suggests that focussing on play-based activities that build memory, reasoning and problem-solving abilities is more productive than an early focus on content knowledge.”

Global research shows that 90% of brain growth occurs by age 5, meaning that the quality of early childhood education has a crucial impact on the development and long-term schooling of a child. The ASER report shows that a large number of factors determine the quality of education received at this stage, including the child’s home background, especially the mother’s education level; the type of school, whether anganwadis, government schools or private pre-schools; and the child’s age in Class 1.

Private schools ahead

Of six-year olds in Class 1, 41.5% of those in private schools could read words in comparison to only 19% from government schools. Similarly, 28% of those in government schools could do simple addition as against 47% in private schools. This gap is further exacerbated by a gender divide: only 39% of girls aged 6-8 are enrolled in private schools in comparison to almost 48% of boys.

The report also found that a classroom could include students from a range of age-groups, skewing towards younger children in government schools. More than a quarter of Class 1 students in government schools are only 4 or 5 years old, younger than the recommended age. The ASER data shows that these younger children struggle more than others in all skills. “Permitting underage children into primary grades puts them at a learning disadvantage which is difficult to overcome,” said the report.

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Printable version | Jul 10, 2020 8:28:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/aser-flags-poor-learning-outcomes-in-schools/article30569671.ece

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