A quarter of rural students in India can’t read , do simple division: Survey

Representational image: lakshmiprasad S/iStock

New Delhi:  A survey has revealed that one in four (25 per cent) students aged between 14 and 18 years in the rural areas of India lacked skills to read lessons in the regional language meant for class 2. Another worrisome finding of the survey is that 42.7 per cent of these students could not read English sentences correctly.

The survey was carried out by Pratham, a non-governmental organisation, as part of its ‘Annual Status of Education Report’ (ASER 2023). Titled ‘Beyond basics’, the report which was prepared after surveying 34,745 students in 28 districts located in 26 states, also says that over 50 per cent of the students in this age group could not do simple division taught in class 4.

Students from Ernakulam district were covered in Kerala during the survey, while two districts each were selected from Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

Pratham, whose activities are focused on the educational sector, conducted a similar survey among 14-18 year-old students in 2017 also.

Meanwhile, the latest survey report says that 86.8 per cent of the youngsters in this age group attended school or college. The report also indicates that the rate of dropouts increased with the age of students. For instance, while 3.9 per cent of students abandoned their studies at the age of 14 years, the proportion increased to 10.9 per cent at 16 years and 32.6 per cent at 18 years.

According to the report, even though the proportion of students continuing their studies had gone up during the past years, their linguistic and mathematical skills had not improved. 

A comparison with 2017
Pratham’s survey in 2017 found that 76.6 per cent of students aged 14 to 18 years could read class 2 textbooks in the regional language. In 2023, the figure fell to 73.6 per cent.

However, while only 39.5 per cent could carry out basic division in 2017, the figure rose to 43.3 per cent last year.

Another interesting finding is that while female students were ahead in reading regional language lessons, male students scored higher in reading English sentences and doing mathematics.

Situation far better in Kerala
The report’s findings from Kerala reveal that 84.5 per cent of the students aged 14-18 years in Ernakulam district could read class 2 textbooks in the regional language (Malayalam) correctly. Moreover, 54.9 per cent of these students carried out simple division without errors and 94.9 per cent read at least one English sentence properly.

While 99.5 per cent of the students used a smartphone, more youngsters utilized social media (98.2 per cent) than those who carried out an online activity related to their studies (84.2 per cent). 

The report also mentions the career goals of the surveyed students in Kerala. The highest number of female students (33.4 per cent) in the state preferred a career as a nurse, followed by doctor (14.5 per cent) and teacher (five per cent). At the same time, 13.2 per cent of the male students dreamt of an engineering career and 8.6 per cent hoped to join the nursing profession.

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