The thrust on schooling in regional languages notwithstanding, nearly 25 per cent of rural youth in the age group of 14-18 cannot read a class 2 level text “fluently,” even if it is in their regional language.

The findings come up in the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2023, released on Wednesday.

The report also adds that more than half struggle with division (3-digit by 1-digit) problems. Only 43.3 per cent of the age group is able to solve such problems correctly. This skill is usually expected in Standard III and Standard IV. However, the survey adds that some 57.3 per cent can read sentences in English. And of those who can read sentences in English, nearly 75 per cent of them can tell their meanings.

Incidentally, females (76 per cent) do better than males (70.9 per cent) in reading a grade II-level text in their regional language. In contrast, males do better than their female counterparts in arithmetic and English reading, the survey reveals.

In doing basic mathematics, over 60 per cent are able to do the budget management task; about 37 per cent can apply a discount; and only about 10 per cent can calculate repayment. “Overall patterns in the ability domain indicate that having basic foundational skills like reading and arithmetic are very helpful for activities like everyday calculations and understanding instructions,” it said.

The ASER 2023 ‘Beyond Basics’ survey was conducted in 28 districts across 26 states, covering 34,745 youth in the 14–18 year age bracket. One rural district was surveyed in each major state, with the exception of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, where two rural districts were surveyed.

Digital awareness

Close to 90 per cent of youth have a smartphone in the household and know how to use it. Twice as many males (43.7 per cent) than females (19.8 per cent) can use a smartphone. Almost 90.5 per cent of the youth surveyed used social media, but just about half of them are familiar with the online safety settings.

Two-thirds of smartphone users have used it for some education-related activity like watching online videos, solving doubts, or exchanging notes. Slightly over a quarter use smartphones for online services that include making online payments, filling out a form, paying a bill, or booking a ticket.

Some 80 per cent of the youth report having used their smartphone to do an entertainment-related activity, such as watching a movie or listening to music. Of youth who could bring a smartphone, about 80 per cent can find a specific video on YouTube, and 90 per cent of them can share it with a friend.

Some 70 per cent of youth can browse the internet to find the answer to a question, and about two-thirds can set an alarm. A little over a third can use Google Maps.

Other findings

As per the ASER study, some 86.8 per cent of 14- to 18-year-olds are enrolled in an educational institution. The percentage of youth not enrolled is a high 32.6 per cent for 18-year-olds but low for 14-year-olds at 3.9 per cent.

Most of the young people in this age group of 14-18 were enrolled in the Arts/Humanities stream. In Class XI or higher, more than half are enrolled in the Arts/Humanities stream (55.7 per cent).

Females are less likely to be enrolled in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) stream. Against 28.1 per cent females, around 36.3 per cent males were enrolled in the stream.

Of those surveyed, 5.6 per cent of the youth took vocational training or other related courses, most of which were 6 months or less.