Youth in rural India lack 'foundational skills': Survey

Last Updated 16 January 2018, 11:17 IST

A large number of youngsters in the age group of 14 to 18 in the country's rural areas are reaching adulthood without adequate "foundational skills" in reading and arithmetic abilities required to meet various challenges in their daily life, observes a survey.

While about 25% of this age group still cannot read "basic text" fluently in their own language, more than half struggle with division (3 digit by 1 digit) problems, states a first-ever survey on the status of education of India's rural youth by Pratham, a non government organisation (NGO).

"Only 43% of the youngsters in age group of 14 to 18 are able to do such problems correctly," the annual status of education report (Aser) 2017, released here on Tuesday, noted.

Performance of girls in the same age group "is worse" than those of the boys, it added.

The Pratham, which until 2016 focused on assessing the basic learning outcome of the elementary school children in rural areas since 2005, conducted the survey on the status of education of India's rural youth in the age group of 14 to 18 this time in a total of 28 districts of 24 states.

"About 2000 volunteers from 35 partner institutions, visited more than 25,000 households in 1,641 villages, surveying more than 30,000 14 to 18 year olds in all. Four domains were considered – activity, ability, awareness and aspirations," the NGO said.

About 70% of India's population reside in rural areas.

According to the Aser report, titled 'Beyond Basics,' about 53% of all 14 year-old in the sample could read English sentences. For 18 year-old youth, this figure was closer to 60%. Of those who could read English sentences, about 79% was able to tell the meaning of the sentence

"Even among youth in this age group who have completed eight years of schooling, a significant proportion still lack foundational skills like reading and math. Interestingly, although reading ability in regional languages and in English seems to improve slightly with age (more 18 year-olds can read than 14 year olds), the same does not seem to apply to math," the report said.

The proportion of youth who have not acquired basic mathematics skills by age 14 was the same as that of 18 year olds.

"Learning deficits seen in elementary school in previous years seem to carry forward as young people go from being adolescents to young adults," the report added.

To test the ability of the sample youngsters in applying basic literacy and numeracy skills to everyday life, the Pratham's survey team picked some simple activities like counting money, knowing weights, and telling time.

"Although having completed at least 8 years of schooling is an advantage, not all youth who have done so can do these tasks. Females perform worse than males on almost all tasks. Substantial numbers of young people who have completed 8 years of schooling have difficulty applying their literacy and numeracy skills to real world situations," the report noted.

(Published 16 January 2018, 11:08 IST)

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