The Annual Status For Education Report (ASER) Rural 2018 recently came out with some significant findings about the state of rural education and its impact on the children. The nation-wide household survey, which provides a picture of children’s schooling and learning across rural India, reached 596 districts, a total of 354,944 households and 546,527 children in the 3 to 16 age group. There has been a major improvement in the number of schools that have girls’ toilets. The fraction of schools with usable girls’ toilets doubled and stands at 66.4 per cent in 2018.
Here are some key takeaways from the report:
Schooling levels: Enrolment and attendance
- Overall enrolment in 6-14 age group: Ever since 2007, the enrolment of children for this age group has been above 95 per cent.
The proportion of children, in this age group (6-14), who are not enrolled in school has fallen below 3 per cent for the first time and stands at 2.8 per cent in 2018.
- Proportion of girls out of school in 11-14 age group: In 2006, the all-India proportion of girls in this age group, who were out of school, stood at 10.3 per cent. The overall proportion of girls in the age group out of school has fallen to 4.1 per cent in 2018.
The report points out that nationally, a decade ago (2008), over 20 per cent of girls in the 15-16 age category were not enrolled in school. The figure decreased to 13.5 per cent in 2018.
- Private school enrolment for 6-14 age group: There has been an increase in the proportion of children enrolled in private schools between 2006 to 2014. This figure stood at 30.8 per cent in 2014. Since then, private school enrolment appears has remained the same for this age group. The percentage of children enrolled was 30.6 per cent in 2016 and remains almost unchanged at 30.9 per cent in 2018.
The report mentions that the national average hides changes in private school figures across states.
The Right to Education Act, which was implemented in 2010, saw the first batch of students benefit from its provisions as they completed eight years of compulsory schooling in 2018. There seems to be an improvement in the structure as many school obliged with the facilities mandated by RTE.
The “fraction of schools with usable girls’ toilets” doubled and stands at 66.4 per cent in 2018
The proportion of schools with boundary walls also increased by 13.4 per cent, standing at 64.4 per cent in 2018. The percentage of schools with a kitchen shed increased from 82.1 per cent to 91 per cent.
Proportion of schools with books available other than textbooks increased from 62.6 per cent to 74.2 per cent in this period.
However, there have deficiencies as well. Jammu and Kashmir, and most of the north-eastern states counted for maximum deficiencies.
Less than 50 per cent of schools, in these states, had provision for drinking water or girls’ toilets available in 2018
Majority of schools in north-eastern, with the exception of Assam, did not account for having library books available for students in 2018.
Physical education and sports facilities
The survey, which introduced a series of questions on the availability of sports infrastructure in schools, had some interesting findings.
- In 2018, eight out of ten schools had a playground available for students — either within the school premises or nearby. In more than 90 per cent of schools in Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, and Maharashtra, a playground was readily accessible. However, more than a quarter of all schools in Odisha, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand and Bihar did not have access to a playground.
There is a dearth of physical education teachers in schools across rural India
- Only 5.8 per cent of all primary schools and 30.8 per cent of upper primary schools had a physical education teacher available. In most schools, a teacher of another subject was usually tasked with supervising physical education activities as well.
The proportion of schools with a physical education teacher is higher than the national average in states like Haryana, Rajasthan and Kerala
- Sports equipment of some kind was accounted for in 55.8 per cent of primary schools and 71.5 per cent of upper primary schools. Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh recorded higher proportion of schools where sports equipment was available.
As a part of the survey, the children in the age group 14-16 were given a few tasks which required calculations to be done in everyday contexts.
- Gender differences in reading and arithmetic in 14-16 age group: The all-India figure for the proportion of girls who can read at least a Std II level text stood similar to that of boys. Both accounted for around 77 per cent.
Girls outperform boys in many states like Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, West Bengal, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu.
Boys seem to hold a substantial advantage when it comes to basic arithmetic. 50 per cent of all boys in the age group 14-16 can correctly solve a division problem as compared to 44 per cent of all girls.
School attendance observations
- Nationally, as per latest figures in 2018, four out of 10 government primary schools had less than 60 students enrolled. However, the number has increased every year over the last decade. It was 26.1 per cent in 2009, 30 per cent in 2011, 33.1 per cent in 2013, 39.8 per cent in 2016, and stands at 43.3 per cent in 2018.
- At the all-India level, there hasn’t been a huge change in students’ and teachers’ attendance. Average teacher attendance has stayed at around 85 per cent and average student attendance at around 72 per cent for the past several years in both primary and upper primary schools.
- States with student attendance of 90 per cent or more in primary schools in 2018 were Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Those with teacher attendance of 90 per cent or more in 2018 were Jharkhand, Odisha, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
- In primary schools, student attendance improved by 3 per cent from 2016 in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Odisha, and Chhattisgarh.
What rural government teachers have to say
“There are several aspects the government can work towards, which is the timely revision of extra-curriculum, infrastructure and better commute facilities for children”
Jyoti Kandpal, a primary government teacher in Kashipur, feels that there is a massive scope for improvement, especially when we talk about infrastructure. “I’ve been in the profession for about 20 years now. I feel there has been progress, but it has been a slow one compared to the fast pacing world. I completely agree with this survey’s findings about playgrounds, as that’s something I’ve myself been responsible about in my school premises. Having said that, there are several aspects the government can work towards, which is the development of better curriculum, infrastructure and better commute facilities for children as well.”
“Students of today are more enthusiastic than ever when it comes to learning, but they need to be equipped enough to avail these facilities and education”
Mamta Adhikari, who is serving as a primary teacher in a small region called Bageshwar, believes that most remote areas are not fully equipped and accustomed to cater to the guidelines. “Sure, there have been improvements, but what pace are we talking about? Students of today are more enthusiastic than ever, but they need to be equipped enough to avail these facilities and education,” she asserted.