Over half of youth struggling with basic maths: ASER study

While females (76%) do better than males (70.9%) in reading a Standard II level text in their regional language, males do better than females in arithmetic and English reading

January 17, 2024 11:13 pm | Updated January 18, 2024 02:22 am IST - New Delhi

Image used for representative purpose only.

Image used for representative purpose only. | Photo Credit: SRINATH M

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), titled ‘Beyond Basics’, was released here on Wednesday. It involved a survey by civil society organisation Pratham among rural students aged 14 to 18 years. The household survey, conducted in 28 districts across 26 states, assessed the foundational reading and arithmetic abilities of 34,745 students.

It discussed the activities students are engaged in, their basic and applied reading and math abilities and digital awareness and skills.

“Overall, 86.8% of 14-18-year-olds are enrolled in an educational institution. There are small gender gaps in enrolment, but notable differences are visible by age. The percentage of youth not enrolled is 3.9% for 14-year-old youth and is 32.6% for 18-year-olds,” the report said.

Most of the people in this age group were enrolled in the Arts/Humanities streams. In Class XI or higher, more than half are enrolled in the Arts/Humanities stream (55.7%) and females are less likely to be enrolled in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics stream (28.1%) than males (36.3%).

Basic abilities

“Only 5.6% of surveyed youth report taking vocational training or other related courses currently. Youth at the college level are the most likely to be taking vocational training (16.2%),” the survey found adding that most youth are taking short duration courses of six months or less.

On abilities such as basic reading, math and English abilities; application of basic skills to everyday calculations; reading and understanding written instructions; and financial calculations that need to be done in real life, about 25% still cannot read a Class II level text fluently in their regional language.

“More than half struggle with division (3-digit by 1-digit) problems. Only 43.3% of 14-18-year-olds are able to do such problems correctly. This skill is usually expected in Standard III/IV,” the report said. A little over half can read sentences in English (57.3%). “Of those who can read sentences in English, almost three quarters can tell their meanings (73.5%),” the report added.

While females (76%) do better than males (70.9%) in reading a Standard II level text in their regional language, males do better than females in arithmetic and English reading. “Of the youth who can do subtraction or more, over 60% are able to do the budget management task, about 37% can apply a discount, but only about 10% can calculate repayment,” the report added.

Close to 90% of all youth have a smartphone in the household and know how to use it. “Of those who can use a smartphone, males (43.7%) are more than twice as likely to have their own smartphone than females (19.8%). Females are less likely to know how to use a smartphone or computer as compared to males,” it added. Across all tasks using mobile phones, males outperformed females. “Performance on digital tasks improves with education level. The ability to do digital tasks increases with basic reading proficiency,” it added.

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