November 19, 2021 - 11:42 am

ASER 2021 Survey Reveals The Facts

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) for 2021 conducted by the non-governmental organisation Pratham, offers some critical pointers for policymakers on the direction of rural school education in a post pandemic world. In the context of the pandemic, the ASER centre switched its focus to learning opportunities in 2020. The report shows a "clear shift" from private to government schools - from 64.3 % in 2018 to 65.8 % in 2020, to 70.3 % in 2021; and fall in private school enrollment from 28.8 % in 2020 to 24.4 % in 2021.

                      Anecdotal evidence from surveyors suggests that this 6-percentage point shift over 2018 could have been the result of parents' financial difficulties, access to free facilities, increased closure of private schools and, of course, labour migrations. In the two years that saw massive increase in paid tuition, too, the percentage of children accessing services didn't differ significantly across Government and private schools. This jump in government school enrollment is undoubtedly a trend that should be leveraged by policy makers in education budget allocations.

                      The digital divide - or - deficiency was clearly accentuated in the survey's findings on children's access to smartphone. 65.4 % teachers flagged the problem of children being "unable to catch up" as one of their biggest challenges - which is also a warning that their learning outcomes are said to be affected unless adressed with urgency.

                      The pointer to the need for collective digital education infrastructure is obvious, more so in those remote areas where disruptions to school attendance can be frequent. ASER's latest reports points to the greater challenges that lie ahead in bridging the future learning losses that India's children, specially in the formation years, have suffered. In a future where skill development will be critical to employment, this should be an urgent priority.