VISAKHAPATNAM: Automatic promotion in elementary education has resulted in more and more children successfully completing elementary schooling, but many in the rural districts of the state cannot even read the standard-II level text and do basic arithmetic, calculation and answer simple general knowledge queries.
The recently released annual survey of the “Annual Status of Education Report” covering 28 rural districts of 24 states (one or two from each state) throws light on how children lack the basic knowledge they would need to function in their daily lives once they start to earn their living.
The education standard is particularly dismal amongst the teens of Srikakulam district, one of the sample districts in Andhra Pradesh taken for the survey. However, they are better compared to their counterparts from other states, revealed the study. Dr B.R Ambedkar University in the district was the institution partner for the non-profit organisation Pratham that conducted the survey.
A scientific sample consisting of 1,047 youth in 954 households in 60 villages in Srikakulam were asked to do basic tasks like telling time, adding weights and counting money; there were questions relating to measurement; slightly more advanced tasks included calculating simple percentages (for instance the youth were asked to calculate what they would have to pay for a T-shirt that was on sale with a 10 per cent discount); tasks involving reading and understanding instructions; and finally some simple general knowledge questions like identifying the state they live in on a map.
The unitary method questions were like if three chlorine tablets are needed to purify 15 litres of water, how many chlorine tablets are needed for 35 litres. They were also asked to read and understand the ORS method of preparation written at the back of the packet.
Of the samples in the AP district, 78.9 per cent were in standard XII or below, 13.9 per cent were under graduates and 7.2 were dropouts.
The survey report claimed that in Srikakulam, 20 per cent teens could not read Standard II level text, 40 per cent could not do division and 22.4 per cent could not do subtraction.
Moreover, 25 per cent of the teens could not read English sentences properly and 30 per cent read and understood three out of four written instructions, for instance, ORS instruction in English.
Thought the statistics are poor, the Srikakulam students are better in comparison to many major states as far as arithmetic like division, counting money, calculating time and unitary method problem-solving are concerned.
Focus on poor students
According to official figures from the District Information System for Education (DISE), enrolment in Class VIII almost doubled in the decade between 2004-05 and 2014-15, from 11 million to almost 22 million.
However, the surveying organisation ASER’s director Ms Wiliama Wadhwa stated that in the ASER 2017 sample, 70 per cent of the youth who were no longer enrolled in formal education had completed 8 or more years of schooling. Besides, the youth who were still enrolled in school were lagging behind.
“We need to ensure that a larger section of the youth who are in the education system but are lagging behind, remain in school and get the skills needed to participate in the country’s growth process. Besides, the young men and women who have decided to discontinue their education, sometimes for reasons beyond their control, need the support from their families and communities and the education system at large. Without this support they are likely to remain on the fringes of society with all their potential being unexploited,” said the director.