7 PM |Chalk, and cheese in private vs. government schools|15th January 2020

Context: Findings of the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2019.

More in news:

  • Pratham, a well-known Non-Profit Organization has released the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2019.

What is ASER?

  • ASER stands for Annual Status of Education Report.
  • This is an annual survey that aims to provide reliable annual estimates of children’s schooling status and basic learning levels for each state and rural district in India.
  • ASER has been conducted every year since 2005 in almost all rural districts of India.
  • ASER is the largest citizen-led survey in India. It is also the only annual source of information on children’s learning outcomes available in India today.
  • Unlike most other large-scale learning assessments, ASER is a household-based rather than school-based survey.
  • This design enables all children to be included especially those who have never been to school or have dropped out, as well as those who are in government schools, private schools, religious schools or anywhere else.
  • In 2019, ASER aims to shine the spotlight on the early years, reporting on the schooling status as well as on a range of important developmental indicators for young children in the age group 4 to 8 across 26 districts in the country.

ASER 2019 ‘Early Years’:

  • ASER ‘Early Years’ is a sample-based household survey conducted by local volunteers in one rural district in almost every state in India.
  • It collects information on pre-school and school status of children in the age group 4-8 years and their performance on some important developmental indicators.
  • These indicators are divided into four domains: cognitive development, early language, early numeracy, and social and emotional development.
  • Objective: The overall objective of ASER ‘Early Years’ is to highlight the kinds of abilities that our young children need to build, to generate evidence on scale on the extent to which they are able to do so. To develop ways of discussing these issues with people across the country all of these in order to ultimately to enable evidence to be translated into action.

Need of ASER 2019 ‘Early Years’:

  • India is home to the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) programme, which is among the largest and oldest public sector initiatives for early childhood development in the world.
  • More recently, India has developed additional important schemes, policies and frameworks, such as the National Early Childhood Care and Education (NECCE) Policy (2013); the National Early Childhood Care and Education Curriculum Framework (2014); and the draft Framework for Implementation of Samagra Shiksha (Integrated Scheme for School Education), which for the first time brings the pre-primary stage under the same umbrella as all other levels of schooling.
  • Most recently, the draft National Education Policy 2019 underlines the importance of early childhood education and prescribes guidelines for providing pre-primary education. However, the quality of provision of early childhood education services remains a concern, and little evidence is available on scale with respect to whether young children are being supported to acquire the foundational skills and abilities that are key to subsequent success in school and beyond.
  • The draft National Education Policy 2019 acknowledges, “A major part of this (learning) crisis appears to be occurring well before children even enter Grade 1. Far too many children are enrolling in Grade 1 before the age of 6, due to a lack of any suitable preprimary options (and limited ECCE); these are often the children that remain the most behind in primary school and beyond.”
  • Worldwide research tells us that lack of access to an appropriate environment and activities means that many children do not have the skills and abilities expected when they enter school, and therefore have difficulty coping with the school curriculum.
  • In order to ensure that the needs and abilities of young children move into the center of current debates on educational policy and practice in India, evidence needs to speak to and be understood by a much wider set of actors – parents and community members as well as policy makers and early childhood development professionals.
  • The evidence generated by ASER 2019 ‘Early Years’ aims to broaden and contribute to ongoing discussions on providing quality education in the early years to all our children.

Highlights of the report:

  • The ASER 2019 has pointed at gross violations of the Right to Education Act 2009 by many states, by allowing children entry into Class I, who are below the prescribed age, thus affecting their performance. 
  • As per the report, as many as four out of every 10 children in Class 1 are younger than five or older than six.
  • Numeracy: It reports that only 41.1 percent of students in Class 1 can recognize two-digit numbers. However, learning outcomes specified by the government advisory body on curriculum, the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) requires children to be able to recognize numbers up to 99 in Class 1 itself.
  • Choice of School:
  • The ASER 2019 report states that parents exhibit a unique bias when it comes to selection of schools for their children.
  • The report shows that parents are more likely to opt for a private school when selecting a school for boys while government schools are primary choice of parents when it comes to girls’ education.
  • For example, among 4- and 5-yearold children, 56.8% girls and 50.4% boys are enrolled in government pre-schools or schools, while 43.2% girls and 49.6% boys are enrolled in private pre-schools or schools.
  • For 6- to 8-year-olds, 61.1% of all girls versus 52.1% of all boys in this age group are going to a government institution.
  • Private versus Government Schools:
  • The report finds that 21% children in grade one of government schools could read words compared to 46.7% in private schools.
  • Although almost half of four-year-olds (44.2 per cent) and more than a quarter of all five-year-olds (26.3 per cent) are enrolled in anganwadis, these children have far lower levels of cognitive skills and foundational ability than their counterparts in private LKG and UKG classes.
  • Only 14% children in anganwadis could recognize letters as compared to 52.9% in private pre-schools. Also, 12.9% of children in private pre-schools were already reading words compared to only 2.9% in anganwadis.
  • Cognitive skills: The report finds that only 23.8% children of grade one in government schools could do all three tasks (Seriation, pattern recognition and puzzle) compared to 43.1% in private schools.

Key Recommendations:

Based on the findings of the Annual State of Education Report 2019, Pratham has made some interesting recommendations to improve the state of school-level education in the country. The key recommendations are as follows:

  • Strengthening and expansion of the existing network of Anganwadi Centres
  • Age of students play an important role in development of language, numeracy, social and emotional learning
  • Enrolling students in primary grades at right age important for overall development
  • Age group between 4 to 8 years seen as continuous progressive stages, so curriculum development should be done in accordance with it.

Conclusion:

India has huge investment in its early childhood programme, administered through 1.2 million anganwadis under the ICDS. The findings of ASER 2019 make it clear that there is need to strengthen these early childhood education centres so that they implement appropriate “school-readiness” activities.

Source:  https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/chalk-and-cheese-in-private-vs-government-schools/article30569656.ece

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