India’s education crisis will affect both its economy and future of millions of youth: ASER

India’s education crisis will affect both its economy and future of millions of youth: ASER

Friday January 17, 2014,

5 min Read

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India seems to have no problem of getting children enrolled in school, the real issue with with education outcomes. Image courtesy:


According to the ninth Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2013) released in New Delhi, on Wednesday, by Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission the Indian education system is suffering a crisis.

The problem is one of learning outcomes: the proportion of all children in Class 5 who can read a Class 2 level text decreased each year from 2009 to 2012, dropping from 52.8% in 2009 to 46.9% in 2012, and remains virtually the same in 2013 at 47%. There is another disturbing trend; that of the widening gap between government and private schools. In government schools, among Class five children enrolled in government schools, the percentage of children able to read Class two level text decreased from 50.3% (2009) to 43.8% (2011) to 41.1% (2013). In 2010, 33.2% children of Class 3 in government schools could at least do subtraction, as compared to 47.8% in private schools. In 2013, 18.9% of Class 3 students in government schools were able to do basic subtraction or more, as compared to 44.6% of Class 3 children in private schools.

“There are several major challenges for the education sector, from introducing at least one year of pre-school education to building mechanisms for open learning, continuing education, vocational training and quality education and research at the university level. Political decisions are needed to address problems and they need to take into account the overall changing realities of India. The two major issues needed to be tackled urgently are the dramatic shift to private school enrolment in rural areas and a crisis of learning,” says Madhav Chavan, chief executive and president of Pratham Education Foundation, in the report.

According to the report, there are serious implications for India’s equity and growth if basic learning outcomes do not improve soon. Since 2012, the policy framework in India for elementary education is changing, with the focus shifting to learning outcomes.

The 12th Five Year Plan document corroborates this fact.

Background of the report:

ASER is the largest annual household survey of children in rural India that focuses on the status of schooling and basic learning. Facilitated by the non-profit Pratham, in each rural district ASER is conducted by local organizations, and institutions. ASER 2013 reached 550 districts and close to 16,000 villages, 3.3 lac households and 6 lac children in the age group 3-16.

Every year, ASER finds out whether children in rural India go to school, whether they can read simple text and whether they can do basic arithmetic. In 2013, ASER visited 14,724 government schools.

ASER 2013: Key Findings:

Not everything is doom and gloom, there are some things that India has done right.

  • Enrollment in the 6-14 age group continues to be very high, with more than 96% of children enrolled in school.
  • The proportion of out of school girls in the 11 to 14 age group has declined since last year.
  • Overall, enrollment numbers remain very high. Over 96% of all children in the age group 6 to 14 years are enrolled in school. This is the fifth consecutive year that enrollment levels have been 96% or more.
  • At the All India level, the proportion of girls in the age group 11 to 14 who are not enrolled in school dropped from 6% in 2012 to 5.5% in 2013. The greatest progress is visible in Uttar Pradesh, where this percentage dropped from 11.5% in 2012 to 9.4% in 2013.
  • The proportion of schools with a total enrollment of 60 students or less has increased steadily since 2010, from 27.3% in 2010 to 33.1% in 2013. This means that almost a third of all government primary schools in India are “small schools”.
  • Since 2010 there has been a significant increase in the proportion of schools with a useable toilet, from 47.2% in 2010 to 62.6% in 2013. In 2010, 31.2% of all schools visited did not have a separate toilet for girls. This number has declined to 19.3% in 2013. The percentage of useable toilets for girls has also increased from 32.9% in 2010 to 53.3% in 2013.
  • Over the last three years, there has been a steady increase in the provision of libraries in schools that have been visited. The All India figure for schools with no library provision dropped from 37.4% in 2010 to 22.9% in 2013.
  • During ASER 2013, nationally, mid-day meal was observed being served on the day of the visit in 87.2% of schools. This year, in 14 states, mid-day meals were seen in more than 90% of schools visited.
  • Compliance with most measurable Right to Education (RTE) norms continues to grow: The proportion of schools that comply with RTE pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) norms has increased every year, from 38.9% in 2010 to 45.3% in 2013. The proportions of schools with an office/store, a playground, and a boundary wall have increased slightly over 2012 levels.
  • However, in Rajasthan the proportion of out of school girls age 11 to 14 rose for the second year in a row, from 8.9% in 2011 to 11.2% in 2012 to 12.1% in 2013.
  • Teacher attendance in both primary and upper primary schools shows no change over the 2012 level of 85%. But student attendance shows a slight decline, especially in upper primary schools from 73.1% in 2012 to 71.8% in 2013.

Want to dive deeper? You can access the full 306-page report here.