The enrolment in schools has registered an improvement while the number of children in upper classes who can read basic Class 2 text and solve elementary mathematics problems (division & subtraction) has jumped up in Punjab, according to the government’s Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) for Rural India 2018 released by the Pratham Education Foundation.
The numbers in Punjab, however, still continue to be poor even though they are better than the national pan-India results average. The report states that 60 per cent children from Class 3, 28 per cent from Class 5, and 15 per cent from Class 8 could not read the basic Class 2 text in Punjabi.
Punjabi is a compulsory subject in government schools of Punjab from Classes 1 to 10. The silver lining for the Punjab is that these numbers are better than the national average according to which 73 per cent children from Class 3, 50 per cent from Class 5, and 28 per cent from Class 8 could not read basic Class 2 text in regional languages. In Punjab, the basic reading levels in Punjabi for Class 8 children has in fact declined. Now (in 2018), 85 per cent students can read Class 2 text as against 86 per cent in 2016.
The ASER Rural India survey covered 20 districts in Punjab in which 12,799 children (in the age group 3-16) from 596 villages were surveyed in 11,865 households. Children — both from government and private schools — in the age group of 5-16 years were tested in reading and arithmetic abilities. Also, 554 government schools were surveyed for basic facilities.
For private schools, the figure stood at 24.8 per cent in 2010. Over 30 per cent Class 5 students in government schools still cannot read basic Class 2 text while 26 per cent from private schools failed on this parameter. In arithmetic and basic calculations testing, children in Punjab, on an average, performed way better than their counterparts across India and recorded a slight improvement over the 2016 results. However, still more than 50 per cent students in Class 3 could not do basic subtraction of two-digit numbers. Also, 23 per cent children from Class 5 and 17 per cent from Class 8 could not solve subtraction sums.
ASER-2018 Rural India report also mentions that in Punjab, girls are performing better than boys in all age groups. While 62.5 per cent girls aged 8-10 could read basic class II text, only 47.4 per cent boys could do it. In age group 11-13 and 14-16 also, more girls could read basic text compared to boys. While 60 per cent girls in the age group 11-13 years could do division sums, only 53 per cent boys could do it. However, in the age group of 8-10 years, results for division sums for both boys and girls are very poor. Only 25 per cent boys and 33 per cent girls (8-10 years) could solve division sums in Punjab. This again is still better than national average of 15.7 per cent and 14 per cent respectively.
It was also tested that if children can apply their classroom learning in daily lives or not and results have been shocking. Almost half of children (aged 14-16 years) who were able to do division sums could not calculate time and 72 per cent failed in calculating discount on a product. Similarly, 70 per cent children in the same age group who could do subtraction failed to calculate time and 85 per cent failed to calculate discount.
Prabhsimran Singh, coordinator, Punjab, Pratham Education Foundation, said, “In a nutshell, the reading and arithmetic levels in Punjab have improved in past two years but then we have not even reached the halfway mark. If 85 per cent of Class 8 children can read basic Class 2 text, it is not something great and we have to reach a level where they can read text of higher grades too. Enrollment of children in schools is not an issue in Punjab and it will further improve because government has started pre-primary classes in government schools. The effect of pre-primary classes should reflect in next survey.”