'25 pc in Class VIII can't read Class II books'

'25 pc in Class VIII can't read Class II books'

A national survey has found that close to 25 per cent students in Class VIII cannot read Class II textbooks, despite several efforts by the government to improve the quality of elementary education in India.

The NGO, Pratham, published its first survey 10 years ago sampling thousands of students across rural India. The dismal trend has been continuing since then.

Pratham’s Annual Status of Education Report (Rural), released here on Tuesday, also indicated that the ability of Class VIII students to solve questions in basic arithmetic has declined since 2010.

The students’ ability to read English, too, remained relatively unchanged in lower primary grades, while a decline was visible in upper primary grades.

In 2014, about 25 per cent of children enrolled in Class V could read only simple sentences in English.

According to the survey, 60.2 per cent of children in Class VIII could read simple sentences in English in 2009, but in 2014, the percentage came down to 46.8. 

In 2014, of those who could read words (regardless of grade), roughly 60 per cent could explain the meaning. Of those who could read sentences, 62.2 per cent in Class V could explain the meaning.

“Overall, the situation with basic reading continues to be extremely disheartening in India. Mathematics continues to be a serious and major source of concern (so far as learning outcomes are concerned). Teacher and child attendance show no major changes from last year (2013),” stated the report.

India is close to universal enrolment for the age group of 6-14, with the percentage of children enrolled in schools reaching over 96 for six years in a row, but their ability to read and solve basic arithmetic problems continues to remain “low and unchanged”, it added.

In 2014, only a fourth of all children in Class III could fluently read a Class II-level text. This number rises to just under 50 per cent in Class V.

In 2012, 26.3 per cent of Class III children could do a two-digit subtraction. The percentage of such children was 25.3 in 2014.

For Class V children, the ability to do division increased slightly from 24.8 per cent in 2012 to 26.1 per cent in 2014. The all India (rural) figures for basic arithmetic, however, have remained virtually unchanged over the last few years, the report noted.

“There are other trends which are quite worrying. For example, the percentage of children in Class II who still cannot recognise numbers up to 9 has increased over time, from 11.3 per cent in 2009 to 19.5 per cent in 2014.

The proportion of Class VIII students who could correctly do a three digit by one digit division problem was 68.3 per cent in 2010. This number has dropped to 44.1 per cent in 2014,” the report stated.

Except in Tamil Nadu, where some improvement was observed, the report stated that it was clear that arithmetic levels had declined “in almost every state”. 

The survey also noted a slight increase in the proportion of children enrolled in private schools. In 2014, 30.8 per cent of all 6-14 year old children in rural India were enrolled in private schools, while the percentage of such students was 29 in 2013.
DH News Service

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