ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Assessing ASER 2017

Reading between the Lines

Assessing ASER 2017

The publication of the Annual Status of Education Report (Rural) 2017 titled “Beyond Basics” has resulted in predictable outcry over the state of education in the country. Using the report as a case in point, the complexities in reading and interpreting data presented by such large-scale assessments on learning are highlighted.

Since 2005, the Annual Status of Education Reports (ASERs) have been doing a commendable job in shining light on the gnawing gap that exists between what children in schools should know, and what they actually know. The ASER (Rural) 2017 survey titled “Beyond Basics” is out in the public domain with its twin focus on assessment of basic literacy and numeracy skills of an older cohort (14–18 years), and also an examination of the activities that they were engaged in, abilities (application of foundational skills to everyday situations), aspirations (related to future roles/jobs) and general awareness (exposure to mobiles, computer, internet). Its findings are fairly predictable. Considering that elementary schoolchildren have been reported to have severe learning deficits, it would have been unrealistic to expect the older age group to show an upswing in learning.

The survey is confined to 30,000 youth from 28 rural districts in 24 states of India. However, the manner in which its findings are projected, interpreted and implications are drawn for policies, seems to be making sweeping judgments on the learning of all children in India. This is evident from the nature of headlines of articles reporting ASER’s findings in media, both electronic and print: “ASER 2017 Shows India’s Secondary Education Sector Is Failing to Impart Basic Skills,” “One in Two Indian Students Can’t Read Books Meant for Three Classes Below,” and “We the Half Educated People” (Nanda 2017; Ghosh and Bandyopadhyay 2018; Bhagat 2015). My intention in this article is to point out the complexities in reading and making sense of the data presented by large-scale assessments (LSAs) on learning, using ASER as a case in point. Since it has contributed to shaping popular discourse on school education in India for almost a decade, it needs to be viewed very carefully.

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Updated On : 26th Feb, 2018

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