More than half of the eighth-graders who go to government schools in rural areas in 25 States cannot do division, says the newly released Annual Status of Education Report 2022. Released by Pratham, the report surveyed over seven lakh students in 616 rural districts across the country.

The situation is dismal in Rajasthan, Assam, and Meghalaya, where more than 70 per cent of the eighth-graders in rural areas cannot do division. When it comes to reading, more than half of these students are able to comprehend a grade II-level text, but the proportion of these students has fallen compared to how things were in 2018. Only in rural Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, and Manipur are more than half of eighth-graders in government schools able to do division.

Learning losses

It also notes that V to VIII graders in rural areas faced learning losses compared to 2018. “Nationally, children’s basic reading ability has dropped to pre-2012 levels, reversing the slow improvement achieved in the intervening years. Drops are visible in both government and private schools in most States, and for both boys and girls,” notes the report, adding, “Nationally, children’s basic arithmetic levels have declined over 2018 levels for most grades.”

The ASER arithmetic test assesses whether a child can recognise numbers, do a 2-digit numerical subtraction problem with borrowing, or correctly solve a numerical division problem.

ASER’s study also validates a UNESCO study from January 2022. It noted that only 12.3 per cent of India’s lower secondary school students (aged 10–16) are proficient in basic mathematics. It had attributed these figures to learning loss during COVID.

Surge in government school enrollment

The ASER study, conducted on such a large scale for the first time since the pandemic, also notes a surge in enrollments in government schools in rural India. It states that 72.9 per cent of 6- to 14-year-olds currently study in government schools.

“The period 2006–2014 saw a steady decrease in the proportion of children (age 6–14) enrolled in a government school. In 2014, this figure stood at 64.9 per cent and did not change much over the following four years. However, the proportion of children (age 6 to 14) enrolled in government schools increased sharply from 65.6 per cent in 2018 to 72.9 per cent in 2022,” it notes.

It also says that the proportion of girls who are not enrolled in schools has fallen. In 2022, the all-India figure for 11- to 14-year-old girls not enrolled in schools is 2 per cent. This used to be 10.3 per cent in 2006.