Nearly 27 per cent rural students in the age group of 14-18 years in two districts of Punjab — 34 per cent students in Amritsar and 21 per cent in Bathinda — cannot do basic arithmetic tasks, while 21 per cent cannot read an English sentence, says the 2017 Annual Status of Education Report -Rural (ASER), brought out by NGO Pratham. The survey also found that 37 per cent among them cannot name the capital of the country.
Educationists said the survey revealed that primary school education was failing in the task of teaching basic reading, writing and arithmetic.
They said that there is need to bring quality teachers as well as to minimise the political interference in the education system to bring qualitative change in learning levels.
ASER 2017 was carried out in a total of 28 districts of 24 states across India and in Punjab, the survey was conducted in Bathinda and Amritsar districts. The size of the sample was 2155 students from 1857 households in 119 villages across the two districts.
For the first time ASER 2017 focused on 14 to 18 years old students, and the theme of the survey was “beyond basic”, to find out their general knowledge. The ASER surveys are being done since 2005-2006 by Pratham.
According to the survey, there was 83.6 per cent enrolment of students in Class 12 and up to Class 9 — 86 per cent enrolment in Amritsar and 81.6 per cent in Bathinda.
Overall 27 per cent — 34 per cent in Amritsar and 21 per cent in Bathinda — could not subtract; 21 per cent could not read an English sentence — in Amritsar 25 per cent and 17.5 per cent in Bathinda.
Around 37 per cent could not tell the capital of country — in Amritsar, 44 per cent and 31 per cent in Bathinda. And 50 per cent in Amritsar and 33 per cent in Bathinda could not read or understand three out of four instructions.
In Amritsar district, 15 per cent were unable to read even Class 2 text in their own language, and 36 per cent students could not tell the time (hour and minutes). Nearly 63 per cent could not calculate time and 95 per cent students had no vocational training. Only around 6 per cent knew about net banking. Around 35 per cent students had never used Internet and 38 per cent had not used a computer.
Further, 21 per cent students could not recognise the map of the country and 30 per cent could not name their own state and 68 per cent could not recognise their state on the map of India.
In Bathinda district, around 32 per cent could not tell the time and 59 per cent could not calculate time. According to the survey, 56 per cent could not identify the map of their state, nearly 9 per cent could not identify the map of India and 15 per cent could not tell the name of their own state.
Girls fared better in basic reading and arithmetic than boys, but were poorer in “beyond basic” knowledge.
“Since 2006, ASER has focused on the age group 5 to 16. In 2017, ASER focused on an older age group, youth who are 14 to 18 years old and have moved just beyond the elementary school age,” said Prabhsimran Singh, Coordinator Punjab for ASER survey, while speaking to The India Express.
According to Census 2011, there are nearly 10 crore youth in the 14-18 age bracket, which is why it was decided to survey this group, he said.
ASER tried to look ‘beyond basics’ and explore a wider set of domains beyond foundational reading and arithmetic as four domains were considered-activity, ability, awareness and aspirations, Singh said.
Former Circle Education Officer (CEO), B S Bhatia, commented that the survey had exposed that “teaching has become secondary”” in schools.
“There is lot of political interference in education system pertaining to transfers of teachers. If any principal and headmaster try to be strict, they may face transfer. Earlier in schools, there were checks and balances…, “ he said
Another noted educationist, Dr Satish Kapoor, who retired as principal of Khalsa College, Jalandhar, said that quality of teachers must be improved. “Teaching is no more a noble service for teachers, they consider it only a service to get monetary gains. Basic reading, writing and arithmetic should be the focus but now all three things are missing. ‘Cut and paste’ system has taken over education. Government is just launching new schemes every now and than rather focusing on basics,” he said.
Punjab Education minister Aruna Chaudhary did not answer her phone. Director General school Education (DGSE) Parshant Goyel too did not take calls from the reporter.