New Delhi: Young children in the age group of four to five years who study in anganwadis or government schools are at a disadvantage compared to their counterparts in private schools, according to the latest Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) for 2019.
ASER, released by NGO Pratham on the state of education in India, has been around since 2005, and its findings are taken seriously by all stakeholders, including the government.
The report, which focuses on early education for children in the age group of 4 to 8 years, talks about their enrolment and cognitive skills. It is based on a survey conducted in 26 districts across 24 states in India, covering 1,514 villages, 30,425 households and 36,930 children.
Less-advantaged children affected ‘disproportionately’
The ASER states that by the age of five, most children should be able to perform tasks like a four-piece puzzle, but children from less-advantaged homes are “affected disproportionately”.
“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,” it says.
Cognitive skills refer to a child’s ability to sort, arrange, and recognise patterns, while foundational ability refers to the basic knowledge of language and numbers.
The report also says that only 41.1 per cent of class 1 students can recognise two-digit numbers, which falls short of the NCERT’s specification of learning outcomes — that children should be able to recognise numbers up to 99 in class 1 itself. The ASER reveals that about 28 per cent of class 2 students are also unable to do so.
99.5% of 8-year-olds are in school
More than 90 per cent of children in the age group 4-8 are enrolled in some type of educational institution. The proportion of children enrolled in either pre-school or school increases as they grow older — 91.3 per cent among four-year-olds to 99.5 per cent among eight-year-olds.
In the 4-5 year age group, more girls go to government schools (56.8 per cent) than private schools. However, the reverse is true for boys — 49.6 per cent of them go to government schools, and the rest to private schools.
The ASER focuses specially on early education, because of the importance being given to it across the world. India’s National Education Policy also talks about early childhood education in great detail.
“The early years, defined globally as age 0-8, is known to be the most important stage of development of the human brain. A large body of worldwide research demonstrates that exposure to enabling environments and access to appropriate inputs during this period is fundamental to ensuring that children have a firm foundation on which to build, both in school and in life,” the ASER states.