March 21, 2023

General Studies Paper 2


  • After a gap of four years, the  Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) report for 2022 was recently released in New Delhi. This nationwide household survey that covers all rural districts in the country generates estimates for schooling and basic learning for every State in India. Data from 2018 and 2022 can be compared with longer run trends over the last decade to see how the COVID-19 years have impacted India.

Annual Status of Education Report (ASER):

  • The survey is facilitated by Pratham Education Foundation, and is the oldest survey of its kind in the country.
  • It uses Census 2011 as the sampling frame and continues to be an important national source of information about children’s foundational skills across the country.
  • ASER 2018 surveyed children in the age group of 3 to 16 years and included almost all rural districts in India and generated estimates of foundational reading and arithmetic abilities of children in the age group 5 to 16 years.
  • ASER 2019 reported on the pre-schooling or schooling status of children in the age group 4 to 8 years in 26 rural districts, it focused on the “early years”.
    • It laid emphasis on “developing problem-solving faculties and building a memory of children, and not content knowledge”.
  • ASER 2020is the first ever phone-based ASER survey and it was conducted in September 2020, the sixth month of national school closures.


In 2018: The all-India rural enrolment figure for the age group 6-14 years was 97.2(ninety seven point two)%.

  • In ASER 2022 data, this is now 4(ninety eight point four)%.

Reason for increase in All-India rural enrolment figure:

  • Shift away from private schools to government schools.
  • Efforts of many State governments to provide services even when schools were closed such as mid-day meal rations
  • Teaching-learning materials shared remotely, worksheet and textbook distribution.

ASER data:

  • In 2018:
    • Less than a third of all children in standard five and less than half of those in standard eight could do division in pre-COVID-19 times.
  • ASER evidence suggests that basic learning levels of middle schoolchildren have remained low and stagnant for over a decade.


  • Rising enrollment means that more students can benefit for longer, sustained periods of time from schooling.

Consequences of high enrolment and completion rates:

  • More and more students are going through the middle school pipeline and attending secondary schools
    • There is increased competition for post-secondary opportunities.
  • Acute examination stress
  • Grade inflation in school-leaving examinations
  • Difficulties of gaining admission into college
  • Lack of appropriate jobs for many school leavers.

How is ASER measured?

  • ASER has measured foundational skills in reading and arithmetic.
  • The highest reading task on the ASER tool is reading a text at Grade II level of difficulty.
  • The assessment is done one on one with each sampled child in the household.
  • The child is marked at the highest level that she/he can comfortably reach.
    • The same tasks are used for all children aged 5 years to 16 years.
ASER SurveyNAS Survey
Conducted on householdsConducted on schools
It is meant to be an analysis of basic competencies in reading and mathematics across rural India, conducted by community volunteers, in the child’s homeIt is a school-based, grade specific, country-wide assessment (covering both rural and urban) but limited to government and government aided schools
Quality of learning measured by reading, writing and arithmetic has either shown no improvement or worsened actuallySignificant disparities across states
Increase in mid-day meals served in government schools. Compared to last year’s 97.7 per cent, 99.50 per cent schools now serve meals. Kitchen sheds have also increased.The rural-urban divide also seems to have been bridged with most of the Indian states showing no significant disparity between rural and urban students.


Constitutional Provisions related to education:

  • Part IV of Indian Constitution, Article 45 and Article 39 (f)of Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP), has a provision for state-funded as well as equitable and accessible education.
  • The 42nd Amendment to the Constitution in 1976moved education from the State to the Concurrent List.
  • Article 21A: It provides free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a fundamental Right in such a manner as the State may, by law, determine. The 86th Amendment in 2002made education an enforceable right under Article 21-A.
  • Article 39(f): It provides that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.
  • Article 45: The State shall endeavor to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years.
  • ARTICLE 46: The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.


Related Laws:
Right To Education (RTE) Act, 2009:

  • It aims to provide primary education to all children aged 6 to 14 years and enforces education as a Fundamental Right.
  • It also mandates 25% reservation for disadvantaged sections of the society.
  • It states that sharing of financial and other responsibilities between the Central and State Governments.
  • It lays down the norms and standards related to:
  1. Pupil Teacher Ratios (PTRs)
  2. Buildings and infrastructure
  3. School-working days
  4. Teacher-working hours.

Government Initiatives:

  • National Education Policy 2020.
  • Samagra Shiksha (SS) 2.0
  • NIPUN Bharat Mission
  • PM Poshan Scheme
  • Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE).
  • Performance Grading Index
  • National Education Policy (NEP) 2020: It gives high priority to the acquisition of foundational literacy and numeracy skills especially for children in early grades.
  • NIPUN Bharat” (where NIPUN is National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy) the government’s flagship programme designed to translate policy into practice, is beginning to have traction in many States.

Way Forward

  • In the last 10 years: There have been changes such as new technologies, new knowledge domains, and new ways of operating.
    • But within our school systems, many children are reaching standard eight without being sufficiently equipped with foundational literacy and numeracy skills.
  • Children must have strong foundational skills: They cannot acquire higher level skills or develop advanced content knowledge.
  • ASER data shows that an “overambitious” curriculum and the linear age-grade organizational structure of Indian schools result in a vast majority of children getting “left behind” early in their school career.
  • Need for in-school mechanisms for “catch up otherwise children fall further and further behind academically.
  • Schools have stayed open for most of this school year: Most children are back in school, the urgency of dealing with “learning loss” is acknowledged, and we have a policy that speaks of “critical thinking” and “flexible pathways through school
  • It is time to rethink and rework what happens with our children once they grow past the foundational stage of schooling.
  • Much of the country’s efforts in school education are focused on ensuring strong foundations for children in the early years.
    • Middle school children also urgently need support for learning recovery and “catch up”.
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