Expert Explains: ASER’s 2023 survey results show gaps in learning; tech access is an avenue beyond schools

Source: Indian Express

Subject: Social Issues

Topic: Social Sector- education

Issue: ASER 2023 ‘Beyond Basics’ survey

Why in news: The 2023 survey focused on 14-to-18-year-old children in rural India, specifically on their ability to apply reading and math skills to everyday situations, and their aspirations.


  • Since 2005, the NGO Pratham’s Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) has been recording trends in school enrollment, attendance, and reading and arithmetic abilities among children ages 6-14 years in rural areas of the country.

More about the survey: ASER 2023 ‘Beyond Basics’ survey

  • It was carried out among 34,745 young respondents in 28 rural districts in 26 states, including two districts each in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
  • The 2023 survey focused on an older group of 14-to-18-year-old children.
  • The survey specifically focus on their ability to apply reading and math skills to everyday situations, and their aspirations.
  • It also sought to capture their access to digital technology, and whether they possess the skills to use it.
  • It had four broad buckets to measure — activity, aspiration, awareness in general, and ability

Key findings:

  • Diverse Activities:
  • Many children in the 14-18 age group are engaged in multiple activities, including work, often for their parents.
  • Approximately 30% of respondents are already working, but when asked about their aspirations, they express a desire for different career paths.
  • Importance of Basic Skills:
  •  Basic skills in reading and math are crucial for everyday tasks.
  •  Around 25% of children in this age group struggle to read a Standard II-level text fluently in their regional language,
  •  In addition, more than half face challenges with division problems expected in Std III or IV.
  • Gender Disparities:
  •  Girls outperform boys in reading fluency, while boys fare better in both arithmetic and English reading.
  • However, more than 90% of both boys and girls can use smartphones, but boys have greater ownership and access.
  • Digital Proficiency:
  • While most respondents can use basic smartphone functions, there is a gap in in-depth usage.
  •  Boys tend to outperform girls in digital tasks.
  •  Two-thirds of smartphone users reported using it for education-related activities, indicating the potential for digital learning avenues.
  • Enrollment Gap vs. Digital Access:
  •  While the enrollment gap between boys and girls has narrowed, there is still a disparity in digital access. Boys have greater ownership and access to smartphones.
  • Utilizing School as a Platform:
  • Schools serve as a platform to reach a significant portion of the age group.
  •  The information obtained through school enrollment can be used to enhance various components beyond traditional classroom learning.
  • Subject Choices in Higher Classes:
  • The majority of respondents in Class 11 or higher are studying humanities-related subjects, reflecting the availability of subjects in their villages.
  • This poses questions about their prospects in a job market that emphasizes STEM knowledge.
  • Flexibility in Education:
  • The New Education Policy of 2020 allows for more flexibility, enabling students to explore alternative learning opportunities.
  • There is a need for greater flexibility in the education system to cater to diverse interests and subjects not offered locally.
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