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

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National Achievement Survey 2021

The National Achievement Survey has unveiled the picture of the current school education system. The survey was conducted “to evaluate students’ progress and learning competencies as an indicator of the efficiency of the education system.” Held in over 720 districts of India, rural and urban, the survey findings are concerning as a constant decrease was found in the average performance of students in subjects under study. There is a need to review the pedagogical approach to rectify the situation. An inclusive approach and the participation of parents and community stakeholders can help create a conducive environment.

“Education is fundamental for achi­­eving full human potential, developing an equitable and just society, and promoting national development.” This is specified in the National Education Policy, 2020 and it helps us understand the perceived significance of education in India. Several initiatives and provisions (that is, the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan 2001, fell­owship programmes, etc) introduced over time have provided to attain the desired educational goals. Access to education, retaining students in schools, and ensuring quality education (NEP 1986) remai­ned the primary goal of the school education system. With the changing socioeconomic context, several challenges emer­­ged to realise the preset objectives. The world has achieved progress that is not equally shared (Delors 1996).

Adding to it, the current COVID-19 pandemic made the situation even more complex. The “COVID-19 pandemic brought learning to a screeching halt worldwide, creating the most severe global education disruption in history” (UNESCO 2021). The nati­onal lockdown and quarantine measures required students and teachers to stay at home and continue their education through the online mode. It hampered their daily schedule—students lost contact with their peers and friends, faced the loss of foundational abilities, and absence of curricular learning for more than an academic year. The unpla­nned online educational shift added more difficulties for female students mainly due to the stereotypical and gendered behaviours in household chores. The widespread phenomenon of “forgetting” what students learned from the previous class was witnessed (Azim Premji Foundation 2021). The post-pandemic phase left incessant impressions that req­uire revisiting the school curriculum and pedagogy. The focus must be shifted from a teacher-centric to a student-centric approach. A teacher must be seen as the facilitator of students’ learning ins­tead of a mere distributor of information. There is a need to adopt a participative learning approach to facilitate experiential learning for students. It is critical to developing a system where students are seen as partners in the learning process, not merely as passive participants.

Findings of the Report

The recent National Achievement Survey (NAS) report released by the Mini­stry of Education (2020), Government of India on 25 May 2022 provides evidence of a significant learning gap reported among students in the country. The study’s findings provide insights into the learning competencies of students and the learning gap. As proceeding to the higher levels from Class 3 to 5 and from Class 8 to 10, the average performance of students in subjects (language, mathematics, environmental studies [EVS], sciences, social sciences and English) was found to decrease. Also, compared with NAS 2017, a slight dip has been noticed in NAS 2021. The primary reason for this reg­ression is the COVID-19 pandemic. Closure of schools and shifting education from offline to online mode have affe­cted students’ learning levels.

Considering the perception of students under study, most (78%) found learning at home during the pandemic burdensome with many assignments. Fifty per cent reported no difference and said it was the same as in a school, while 45% found learning from home enjoyable. On the other hand, 80% of students confessed they learn better in school with peer help, and 96% of students prefer going to school. This reveals the students’ preference to attend school and socialise with peers. Adopting participative and activity-based teaching practices with students provide avenues for better learning. Brainstorming, role play, fun games, etc, are some life skills education (LSE) methods that help students learn and grow with peers (World Health Organization 1997). It further helps deve­lop individual skills and provides confidence to work and learn in groups.

Understanding the teacher’s profile, only 52% have participated in professional development programmes conducted by District Institutes of Education and Training/Central Board of Secondary Education/National Council of Educational Research and Training. This is a matter of concern for providing quality education to students. Improved student learning outcomes cannot be achieved unless trained teachers are there. Sixty-five percent of teachers were overloaded with work, whereas 97% reported job satisfaction. These findings require rethinking the parameters of job satisfaction for the tea­chers in the country. A continuous dec­rease in the performance level of students raises questions about the teachers’ job satisfaction. Corrective measures must be adopted to check teachers’ commitment and efficiency in maintaining dialogue with students. Effective communication between teachers and students must be established to facilitate the teaching–learning process.

On assessment practices used by tea­chers in the classes, the least utilised practice was portfolio assessment, which was operated by 89% of teachers. Invol­ving students in individual answering (98%), in discussion (98%), practising reading individually (98%), display of student’s work (98%), and students asking questions during class (98%) were among the most frequently used practi­ces by the teachers. These findings refl­ect the contradiction between practices utilised for assessment by teachers and the performance score of students.

To assess a critical aspect of parents’ involvement in the learning process, NAS findings revealed that 87% of sch­ools guide how parents can support students in their learning. Fifteen percent of schools informed parents about the school acti­vity and 25% of schools lack parental support in students’ learning.

A gender-wise performance assessment revealed that girls outdid boys in most subjects, that is, languages, EVS, sciences, social sciences and English. The average achievement score of girls is significantly above that of the average score of boys in the same state/union territory under study. Only the scores for the subject of mathematics were found to fluctuate. As students progress from Class 3 to Classes 5 and 8, the average achievement score of girls is significantly higher than boys. Whereas in Class 10, the average achievement score of girls is found to be significantly below that of the average score of boys compared to all states/union territories under study.

While comparing the scores on location-wise performance, the average achievement scores of schools in rural areas were found to be significantly higher than that of the average score of schools in the urban area in all Class 3 subjects (that is, languages, mathematics, and EVS). As the student progresses to higher classes from Class 3 to 5 and from Class 8 to 10, the average achievement score of schools in rural areas was significantly below than that of schools in the urban areas in the same state/union territory. There is a need to understand the specific learning needs of rural students and frame their curricula accordingly. The current education system is more urban-centric and does not help poor rural students.

The report has talked about some significant aspects of the education system in India. Taking inferences from these findings, it is evident that the whole education system needs to be revisited.

A Way Forward

The present scenario requires reflecting on and updating current practices in the education system. Deriving inferences from the NAS findings, specific solutions are suggested.

Promoting life skills education: A need to adopt experiential learning mea­sures for students to fulfil the learning gap is required. A promising prospect in this regard can be provided in the form of LSE. LSE allows students to involve themselves in a dynamic teaching and learning process. It further focuses on developing students’ competencies to help them deal with daily life challenges. Delors (1996) pointedly focused on the four pillars of education, that is, learning to know, learning to do, learning to live, and learning to be. Adopting a learning strategy that helps students internalise life values and be able to apply them to their daily contexts is the need of the hour. The 21st century skills—communication skills, including language and pre­sentation of ideas, collaborative skills, individual learning approaches, indivi­dual autonomy, and information and communications technology (ICT) and digital literacy—need to be focused upon (Joynes et al 2019). LSE provides a scope to simultaneously achieve the overall learning goals and individual well-being. Activity-based learning and the involvement of stakeholders in school activities also help in the holistic development of the students. A holistic approach could be helpful where students, teachers, parents, and other community stakeholders can be connected through LSE-based interventions. In this way, delivering for the demand of developing skills and competency among students, LSE must be part of the school curriculum through educational reforms.


Gender equality and inclusion: It is high time for schools to emerge as gender-neutral spaces. Devising small measures at the individual level can bring change. Say, teachers with their students must utilise gender-neutral language. The curriculum books are needed to be revisited and checked for gender-biased commentary. Differential treatment (based on gender identity) should be rectified for girls and boys in the schools. Equitable opportunities and cha­llenges are required to be introduced to all students. More girls should be motivated to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects. Students’ engagement in main study subjects and other extracurricular activities should be promoted equally without gender-based discrimination.

Parent’s involvement: The school system must also develop measures to ensure parents’/guardians’ involvement in their ward’s progress. COVID-19 has left society with many psychosocial and economic challenges that impact children’s development directly or indirectly. Though there exist parent–teacher associations (PTAs) or school management committees (SMCs), there is a need to go beyond the ritual of tokenism. They must work independently to provide a safe and healthy space for students’ learning. Considering individual children’s needs in the present time, PTAs must be strengthened more than ever before. As a unit of the social system, the family is influenced by social structures and norms. To control extraneous factors in the environment, community-based interventions and awareness programmes can also be helpful.

School social work: It can be taken as a professional approach to addressing emerging school education-related challenges. Making provisions for the appoin­tment of an expert can aid in the teaching–learning process. A school social worker is trained to help students deal with various school-related issues and problems. They adopt different met­hods to work with students at individual cap­acity as well as working in groups. After assessing the students’ individual or group needs, a school social worker makes a plan of action and intervenes. A professional approach can help resolve student-related concerns systematically. A school social work professional acts as a counsellor and career guide for students as well as works to bridge the communication gap between teachers and students. They take up the role of a resource mobiliser and facilitate interface with the community through PTA/SMC.

Inclusive education: India hosts 7.8 million children with disability. “The education of children with disabilities is still insufficiently addressed by schooling sys­tems around the world” (UNESCO 2019). The recent NAS report too missed the mention of education for children with special needs. Though the policies are being framed with time to deal with the same, there is a need to ensure proper implementation on the ground. An institutionalised approach is required to deal with the special needs of children. It req­uired a team of well-qualified and expert teachers, informed parents, support professionals (school social worker/counsellor) and community commitment to streamline inclusive education.

Foster care and sponsorship: Talking about inclusion and overall educational development, there is a need to accommodate vulnerable children having single parents/no parents/children on the street/living with extended families/children in conflict with the law and others. One crucial phenomenon obser­ved post COVID-19 is children losing their parents to the pandemic. An increase in the number of orphaned children has been reported in the last two years. This requires attention to the safety and education needs of the children affected by the pandemic. There comes the need to institutionalise foster care and deve­lop measures at the policy level. Pandemic-induced loss of income opportunities and economic burden on several households also affected children’s education. Making provisions for sponsorships for such students will help retain students in schools and ensure their ­enhanced learning.


The education system in India requires an immediate overhaul. Strategic planning must be assisted with collective ­efforts to achieve the desired performance of schools. The NAS 2021 provides evidence for a need to revisit the current system. Humanitarian crises are inevitable but our collective action can help resolve the problems accruing from such crises. The suggestions outlined in this article can better the education system while improving the students’ performance with collaborative efforts from teachers, parents, and the community.


Azim Premji Foundation (2021): “Loss of Learning during the Pandemic: Field Studies in Education,” viewed on 5 June 2022,

Delors, J (1996): Learning: The Treasure Within—Report to UNESCO of the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century, Paris, France: UNESCO Publishing, viewed on 30 June 2022,

Joynes, C, S Rossignoli and E Fenyiwa Amonoo-Kuofi (2019): 21st Century Skills: Evidence of Issues in Definition, Demand and Delivery for Development Contexts (K4D Helpdesk Report), Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.

Ministry of Education (2020): National Education Policy 2020, viewed on 4 June 2022,

UNESCO (2019): “N for Nose: State of the Education Report for India 2019–Children with Dis­abilities,”

— (2021): “One Year into COVID-19 Education Disruption: Where Do We Stand?” viewed on 5 June 2022,

World Health Organization (1997): “Life Skills Education for Children and Adolescents in Schools: Introduction and Guidelines to Facilitate the Development and Implementation of Life Skills Programmes,”


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Updated On : 8th Aug, 2022
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