NGO Pratham has done well in bringing out an outstanding report called the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2014). ASER is an annual household survey to assess children’s schooling status and basic learning levels in Reading and Arithmetic. It is the tenth such survey facilitated by Pratham. This is the largest and most comprehensive annual household survey of children in rural India. It surveyed 16,497 villages located in 577 districts across India covering 341,070 households and 569,229 children.


India, would love to hear, that enrolments in schools, are at a level of 96% and that too for the 6th year in a row. So, most of our kids are now at least, sauntering down the school classrooms. And, to toast the occasion there are regular mid-day meals, to take care of their nourishment and over 80% of our schools have improved infrastructure. And the buck doesn’t stop here, as 75% of rural schools now have provision for drinking water, while 65% even have toilets, which is significantly higher than about half a decade ago.


So, while we have made steady progress on the infrastructure side of our schools, what still remains deficient is on the teaching side – how well are these schools teaching their pupils? In depth details are available online. But here are some disturbing points:

  • Almost 50% of the kids in class 5 cannot read simple sentences that are taught in class 2.
  • 50% of the kids in class 5 cannot do basic two digit subtraction which is taught in class 2.
  • And half the kids in class 8 cannot do even simple division that is taught in class 4

So then what is going on in these schools? As half of our school children after having spent more than half a decade in school cannot read basic sentences and do even simple arithmetic; when they could have learnt this in 2-3 years of urban education or in any private school. So do these teachers employed with these schools have any accountability?



Are these schools responsible for creating a talent pool in our country or are we just to rejoice over enrollment numbers and mid-day meals and forget the core issue of educating our children. In the literacy chain of India this could be the weakest link. For what is literacy anyway? Is it just being able to write your name or learn the bare minimum skill of being able to read and solve those basic arithmetical problems. A skill that you will require lifelong. Or is it something much more than that.

Basic skill of reading and arithmetic is vital for survival in today’s world; as life in any form will require these skills. And if the basics are not strong. No matter how much of education you add in later years will only go for a waste. As the data explains adding number of years of education to such laggards will be of no use. And, also, such laggards though counted in enrollment will never get educated.

And, mind you the percentage of such students is very high, and at a staggering fifty percent. India could have lived with a miniscule percentage of such students but because it is half our students, it depicts an applecart failure in our education system.


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