Editorial Simplified: Learning Little | GS – II

Relevance: GS Paper II (Education)

Theme of the Article

The reading and arithmetic abilities in rural schools are shockingly dismal.

Why has this issue cropped up?

The latest assessment of how children are faring in schools in rural areas indicates there has been no dramatic improvement in learning outcomes. This picture has emerged from the Annual Status of Education Report.

What ASER Report says

  • While 53% of students in Class 5 in rural government schools could in 2008 read a text meant for Class 2, the corresponding figure for 2018 stood at 44 %;
  • Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Kerala and Haryana did better on the arithmetic question with over 50% students clearing it, compared to Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and even Karnataka, which scored below 20%.
  • A significant percentage of students were not even able to recognise letters appropriate for their class, highlighting a severe barrier to learning.

Way forward

  • REVIEW MECHANISM: Now that the ASER measure is available for 10 years, the Centre should institute a review mechanism involving all States for both government and private institutions, covering elementary education and middle school.
  • PUBLIC CONSULTATION: A public consultation on activity-based learning outcomes, deficits in early childhood education, and innovations in better performing States can help.
  • RTI: At present, children start learning in a variety of environments: from poorly equipped anganwadi centres to private nurseries. The RTI Act needs a supportive framework to cater to learners from different backgrounds who often cannot rely on parental support or coaching.
  • INNOVATION: It is worth looking at innovation in schools and incentivising good outcomes; one study in Andhra Pradesh indicated that bonus pay offered to teachers led to better student scores in an independently administered test in mathematics and language.


The solutions may lie in multiple approaches. What is beyond doubt is that governments are not doing their duty by India’s children.