The latest report on the status of secondary education in India makes a disturbing reading. The learning deficiencies of students, particularly in rural areas, expose the chinks in the quality of education being imparted in schools. This must serve as a wake-up call for policy makers and educationists to take corrective measures. Nearly one-fourth of rural India’s youngsters aged 14-18 cannot read their own language fluently, while 36% do not know the name of country’s capital. The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2017 was prepared by a leading NGO ‘Pratham’ based on a nationwide survey to assess learning outcomes in youth. The survey, titled ‘Beyond Basics’, was based on an assessment of 30,000 children in 28 districts across 24 States. The survey reveals that 57% of the children assessed struggled to solve a simple sum of division. When shown a map of India, 14% could not identify it, 21% could not answer the State they live in and 46% could not identify the map of their States. The findings highlight the pathetic state of education in rural India. The learning outcomes of boys and girls are similar but in the age group of 14-18, the wedge is opening up between them. There is an urgent need for a rethink on the pedagogic nature of the present education system. Nearly 120 million youth are in the 14-18 age group. Since they account for nearly 10% of the total population, their productivity has a direct bearing on India’s competitiveness as an economy.
This is the 13th year of ASER surveys designed to capture the ground realities of the state of education but for the first time, an age group of 14-18 has been the focus. The report classified the parameters for assessment under four broad heads — activity, ability, awareness and aspirations. Though there are regional variations in the findings, national averages clearly point to lacunae in the state of aspirational young Indians. Apart from infrastructural woes, poor standard of teaching has been the bane of the education sector. The failure to upgrade skills of teachers in tune with changing needs of an increasingly globalised world, continued dependence on the abstract, blackboard teaching and rote method of learning are proving to be major impediments. A paradigm shift in training methods for teachers is the need of the hour. This involves moving away from archaic pedagogical methods and embracing interactive-based and project-oriented training for teachers so that they can keep themselves abreast of the latest trends and apply innovative techniques to make learning an intellectually stimulating process. For too long, the need for modern methods of skill upgradation for teachers has not received adequate attention of the policy makers.