ASER 2023 Survey

ASER 2023 Survey

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

Background:
• 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.

How was the 2023 edition different?
• The 2023 survey focused on an older group of 14-to-18-year-old children, specifically 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.
• The ASER 2023 ‘Beyond Basics’ survey 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.

What did the survey seek to measure?
• There were four broad buckets to measure — activity, aspiration, awareness in general, and ability.
• Digital component was also added as education has evolved since the pandemic.
• The survey also included doing some tasks with a phone, such as setting an alarm or searching for information online.

Key Findings of the survey:
• First, children in this age group are doing multiple things, even though that is not always captured by the education sector or the job market. Around 30% are already working, often for their parents.
• About one in four children in the 14-18 age group still cannot read a Std II-level text fluently in their regional language.
• More than half struggle with division (3-digit by 1-digit) problems, a skill that is usually expected in Std III or IV.
• About 57% can read sentences in English; more than 73% among them can also tell their meanings. Boys do better than girls in both arithmetic and English reading.
• The digital component is interesting because, at one level, it shows that everybody knows how to use the basic things. But they’re not using it in depth; they’re using the surface layer, say, mainly engaging with social media. Beyond school, there could be ways to get young people to develop a much stronger set of         digital skills, which will enable them to get over many obstacles.

Is the gap decreasing in terms of Digital access?
• About 90% of surveyed households had smartphones. Of the surveyed children, almost 95% boys and 90% girls could use a smartphone.
• Across all phone-related tasks assigned to respondents, boys outperformed girls. Ability to perform digital tasks also increased with basic reading proficiency.

Significance of the report:
• The launch of this report provides a timely opportunity to look at policies and practices from the point of view of this relatively understudied age group.
• Forty-five per cent of youth in the age group 14-18 have basic arithmetic proficiency. The rest need “catch up” for these basic skills.
• Low levels of foundational numeracy affect the ability of youth in tackling everyday calculations where they need to apply measurement or even do simple financial computations such as managing a budget, applying a discount or calculating repayment of a loan.
• Data from ASER 2023 indicates that building foundational literacy and numeracy may be needed for about a fourth of youth in the 14-18 age group.

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