Tamil Nadu

TN school children make gains in reading levels: report

A child attempts to read a pamphlet on a 24-hour childline for enforcing their rights, in Madurai. File photo: R. Ashok  

While reading levels of school children have stagnated throughout the country, Tamil Nadu has seen sharp improvements. The average percentage of Class V children across India who can read a Class II level text is 48.1 per cent, according to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 2014. While this is an improvement from 47 per cent recorded for 2013, countrywide, similar reading levels of Class V children in Tamil Nadu has shot up from 31.9 per cent in 2013 to 46.9 per cent in 2014.

States such as Himachal Pradesh (75.2 per cent) and Haryana (68.1 per cent) report higher reading levels than TN, in the survey facilitated by NGO Pratham. While their levels do not differ much from 2013, TN has made the highest gains.

In Assam, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh, less than 35 per cent of Class V children surveyed can read a Class II level text. The survey covered 5.7 lakh children aged 3 to 16 from over 34,000 households between September and December 2014 in 16,497 villages in 577 districts.

Targeted teaching

K. Devarajan, who was Director of School Education during 2012 and 2013 explained that targeted teaching with adequate recruitment has led to this. “In the last two years, 40,000 teachers have been recruited and teachers focus on weaker students. This along with the incentives and teaching tools have made a difference," he told The Hindu.

“The survey does not collect data on reasons for the changes. However, I can say that in the last two years, TN has focused a lot on improving the basics in Tamil and Math in classes I and II. It may also be the case that the Activity Based Learning in government schools is giving results now,” ASER head Rukmini Banerji told this paper.

Tamil reading skills, explained Avinash Mohanraj who works with Pratham in Chennai, is more complex than languages in other States. “Written Tamil is classical and different from spoken Tamil. A child learning Hindi or Bangla finds it easier as the written and spoken language does not differ greatly.”

Math ability

In Math, the gain is even greater. The national average of Class V children who can divide has increased from 25.6 to 26.1 per cent between 2013 and 2014. In Tamil Nadu, it has leapt from 14 per cent to 25.8 per cent during the same period.

Across the country, the ability of class V children to divide a three-digit number by a single digit has fallen from 36.2 per cent in 2010 to 26.1 per cent in 2014. Learning outcomes have stagnated in reading and arithmetic since 2013. In Class II, only a fourth of children can read a Class II text and even in Class VIII, a fourth still can’t read. “We are at a stage where it is not getting any worse,” Pratham CEO Madhav Chavan said.

The need of the hour, said Ms. Banerji, is to fix learning goals and have remedial classes for children to catch up. “Several states have programmes to teach children, irrespective of the class they are in, basics that they have not yet understood. That’s the way forward. Sticking to the syllabus will not help those who are left behind,” she explained.

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Printable version | Jul 22, 2021 5:31:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/tn-school-children-make-gains-in-reading-levels-report/article6785204.ece

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