ASER report finds huge drop in learning levels in Karnataka

42.6% of students in class I unable to recognise numbers; 56.8% cannot read letters

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), which was drawn up in March 2021 in only Karnataka this year, found a huge drop in learning levels in both reading and numeracy, especially for primary classes. What is worrying is that the survey, which was released on Monday, reported nearly a year of ‘learning loss’ among students across the State.

A press release issued by Pratham, the organisation that conducts the survey, stated that the decline in foundational skills is visible throughout the elementary grades, among students enrolled in government and as well as private schools. It found that 56.8% of class I students surveyed could not read letters. In comparison, the 2018 report stated that 40% of class I students were unable to read letters. This is a drop of over 16 percentage points.

For the current report, Pratham surveyed 18,385 children between the age of five and 16 from 13,365 households across 24 districts. This was done earlier this year, the first since the COVID-19 pandemic set in.

In the 2021 survey, 66% of the class VIII students were able to read a standard II text, compared to 70% in 2018. The study noted that only 9.8% of the class III students were able to read a standard II level text. In 2018, however, 19.2% of the students in the same category were able to read a class II level text. There is a similar drop in learning level in reading skills in class V as well as class VIII.

Arithmetic skills

The decline in learning levels is steeper in the arithmetic skills of the students. Nearly half, 42.6% of students in class I, were unable to recognise numbers one to nine. The number of students who were unable to recognise numbers in class I in 2018 was far lower with only 29.7% of them being unable to do so.

Only 17.3 % of the class III students were able to do subtraction while in 2018, it was as high as 26.3%. Similarly, only 38.9% of the class VIII students this year could do division.

Rishikesh B.S., associate professor, Azim Premji University said every single study conducted since schools closed has indicated that the learning loss is accompanied by learning regression. “Foundational skills have been lost by children. It cannot be business as usual as we open schools. Teachers should be given the autonomy to decide where children stand and decide what they want to teach,” he said.

He suggested that education departments should not push teachers to complete the usual syllabus. “There is an urgent need to reconfigure curriculum and plan the next two years very differently than what is done during normal academic years,” he added.

The report stated that there was also a slight shift in enrolment from private to government schools across all age groups.

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