School Education: How Indian children fell behind after Covid-19

ASER report 2022 shows how learning in schools has fallen below levels prevailing 10 years ago in both maths and reading across states.

ASER Report: In 20 states, the reading ability of Class 5 students dropped below 2012 levels. (source: Shutterstock)ASER Report: In 20 states, the reading ability of Class 5 students dropped below 2012 levels. (source: Shutterstock)

Atul Krishna | February 17, 2023 | 11:29 AM IST

NEW DELHI: The latest Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2022 seems to indicate what educationists have been worried about ever since Covid-19 struck – a huge slide in learning levels. With the nationwide closure of schools due to the lockdown, schools had to improvise, use digital solutions, to ensure children continued their learning.

Multiple reports since have shown that these online teaching solutions did not work with even better-resourced schools and families struggling. The latest ASER data seems to confirm the same.

According to the ASER report, only 20.5 percent of Class 3 children in India could read a Class 2 textbook. Reading ability of Class 3 and Class 5 students fell below 2012 levels in more than 20 states.

States lauded for their school education, such as Kerala and Punjab, saw alarming drops in learning levels. Kerala, for instance, recorded the highest fall in learning levels among girls in Class 3. The statistics were alarming for other states as well. In Tamil Nadu, only 3.2 percent of Class 3 students could read a Class 2 textbook.

The ASER findings are summarised below.

Sharpest drops in reading

In 18 states, the learning levels fell below 2012 levels. In Andhra Pradesh, for instance, the learning levels of Class 3 students fell by more than 17 percentage points compared to 2012. Nagaland, Mizoram, Telangana, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim also recorded drops higher than 10 percentage points.

Class 3 Reading Ability: 10 states with sharpest fall, government & private


Can read Class 2 textbook (%)





Sl. No

State

2012

2018

2022

1

Andhra Pradesh

54.1

38.5

33.6

2

Nagaland

53.6

37

33.8

3

Mizoram

61

58.8

42

4

Telangana

21.6

18.1

5.2

5

Meghalaya

29.9

19.3

18

6

Arunachal Pradesh

21.2

18.7

10.8

7

Sikkim

26.9

29.7

16.7

8

Himachal Pradesh

50.3

50.1

41.6

9

Karnataka

30.8

26.4

22.2

10

Jammu and Kashmir

26.3

22.1

19


Tamil Nadu and Telangana recorded single-digit percentages of Class 3 students who can read Class 2 textbooks. Only 4.8 percent students in Tamil Nadu and 5.2 percent students in Telangana could read a Class 2 textbook.

When looking at the data for government schools, Punjab and Kerala, two of the top performing states according to the education ministry’s Performance Grading Index, also feature among the worst performing states in terms of reading ability. Punjab and Kerala recorded a fall of 7.2 percentage points and 6.5 percentage points respectively from the 2012 levels. Both Punjab and Kerala also recorded a fall of more than 10 percentage points compared to 2018 levels.

Class 5 Reading Ability: 10 states with sharpest fall, government & private


Can read Class 2 textbook (%)





Sl. No

State

2012

2018

2022

1

Sikkim

61.6

41.7

31.5

2

Andhra Pradesh

62.4

59.7

36.3

3

Meghalaya

64.5

50.2

38.9

4

Telangana

54.9

43.6

31.7

5

Karnataka

48.5

46.1

30.2

6

Arunachal Pradesh

55.4

37

37.8

7

Gujarat

47.7

53.8

34.2

8

Himachal Pradesh

72.8

76.9

61.3

9

Rajasthan

46.8

49.3

38.2

10

Mizoram

59.6

64.3

51.8

In 20 states, the percentage of Class 5 students who can read a Class 2 text was below 2012 levels. In Sikkim, the learning levels fell by more than 30 percentage points compared to 2012. Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya and Telangana also recorded a fall of nearly 20 percentage points in the reading ability of Class 5 students. In four states – Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Mizoram – gains made by 2018 were erased.

The pattern was similar when looking at the data for government schools, which teach some of the most underprivileged children in the country. Sikkim remained the only state which had learning levels fall by more than 30 percentage points compared to 2012. Meghalaya, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Arunachal also recorded a fall in reading ability of more than 20 percentage points.

Reading ability by gender

Except for Sikkim and Tripura, for which data was not available, all states saw the reading ability of boys in Class 3 decline from 2018 levels. The drop was most evident in Himachal Pradesh which recorded a fall of more than 15 percentage points compared to 2018. In five states, the fall in reading ability was more than 10 percentage points.

In Tamil Nadu (3.2 percent), Telangana (5.4 percent), Karnataka (7.5 percent) and Andhra Pradesh (9.5 percent), less than 10 percent of Class 3 boys could read a Class 2 text.

Reading Ability of Class 3 Boys: Sharpest drop


Can read Class 2 text (%)




Sl. No

State

2018

2022

1

Himachal Pradesh

43.7

26.1

2

Haryana

45.6

31.6

3

Maharashtra

37.9

26.3

4

Andhra Pradesh

20.6

9.5

5

Telangana

16.4

5.4

6

Karnataka

16.2

7.5

7

West Bengal

37.3

28.8

8

Manipur

34.3

26.5

9

Uttarakhand

34.2

26.7

10

Meghalaya

20.7

14.3

In Kerala and Himachal Pradesh, the reading ability of Class 3 girls fell by more than 20 percentage points. The fall in reading ability was felt more keenly among girls in general as 10 states recorded a fall of more than 10 percentage points compared to 2018.

Reading Ability of Class 3 Girls: Sharpest drop


Can read Class 2 text (%)




Sl. No

State

2018

2022

1

Kerala

63.8

42.3

2

Himachal Pradesh

52.2

31.4

3

Maharashtra

46.2

26.9

4

Haryana

47.1

31.4

5

Telangana

19.6

4.9

6

Andhra Pradesh

23.9

11.1

7

Karnataka

22.2

9.6

8

Gujarat

37

24.9

9

Punjab

47.7

36.8

10

Meghalaya

28.8

18

In Telangana (4.9 percent), Tamil Nadu (6.3 percent) and Karnataka (9.6 percent), less than 10 percent of girl students could read a Class 2 text.

Reading Ability of Class 5 Boys: Sharpest drop


Can read Class 2 text (%)




Sl. No

State

2018

2022

1

Andhra Pradesh

56.8

31

2

Gujarat

49.6

33.5

3

Karnataka

41.1

25.6

4

Mizoram

65.6

50.4

5

Himachal Pradesh

72.1

57.5

6

Tamil Nadu

33.9

20.2

7

Kerala

71.8

58.9

8

Maharashtra

64.4

52.2

9

Haryana

67.6

56.1

10

Telangana

37.1

26.3


The loss of reading ability among Class 5 boys was felt in 22 states. In Andhra Pradesh, the arithmetic ability of Class 5 students fell by more than 25 percentage points compared to 2018. In 10 states, the arithmetic ability of students fell by more than 10 percentage points.

Reading Ability of Class 5 Girls: Sharpest drop


Can read Class 2 text (%)




Sl. No

State

2018

2022

1

Gujarat

58.3

34.9

2

Tamil Nadu

47.1

30.1

3

Karnataka

50.9

34.7

4

Himachal Pradesh

81.8

65.9

5

Meghalaya

58.9

45

6

Rajasthan

49.7

36.5

7

Uttarakhand

66.4

53.9

8

Telangana

49.2

37.4

9

Kerala

82

70.5

10

Haryana

70.7

59.5


Gujarat recorded the highest fall in reading ability of Class 5 girl students as the state saw more than 20 percentage point drop when compared to 2018. Karnataka, which saw a drop of 16.2 percentage points and Himachal Pradesh, 15.9 percentage points, also recorded sharp decline.

Arithmetic ability

The ASER report showed that only 25.9 percent Class 3 children could do subtraction in 2022. The arithmetic ability of students fell well below 2012 levels in 18 states. Andhra Pradesh recorded a fall of more than 20 percentage points in the students’ arithmetic ability compared to 2012. With the exception of Himachal Pradesh, all the top 10 worst performing states showed a drop in learning levels by more than 10 percentage points compared to 2012.

Class 3 Maths: Sharpest drops, government & private schools


Can do basic subtraction (%)





Sl. No

State

2012

2018

2022

1

Andhra Pradesh

54.1

38.5

33.6

2

Nagaland

53.6

37

33.8

3

Mizoram

61

58.8

42

4

Arunachal Pradesh

52.6

33.5

35.8

5

Telangana

44.6

34.5

28.7

6

Kerala

52.7

48.5

38.6

7

Uttarakhand

37.1

32.6

23.8

8

Meghalaya

29.9

19.3

18

9

Sikkim

55

40.5

43.3

10

Himachal Pradesh

50.3

50.1

41.6


Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan performed the worst. Only 11.2 percent Class 3 students in Tamil Nadu and only 11.8 percent in Rajasthan could do a simple subtraction exercise.

Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Nagaland and Sikkim all recorded a fall of more than 10 percentage points in the ability of Class 3 children in government schools to do basic subtraction. Mizoram alone recorded a drop in arithmetic ability by more than 20
percentage points

Kerala and Punjab again found themselves among the worst-performing states for arithmetic ability of government school students.

Also, less than 10 percent of Class 3 students in government schools in Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh could do a basic subtraction exercise in 2022

Class 5 Maths: Sharpest fall in government & private schools


Can do basic subtraction (%)



Sl. No

State

2012

2018

2022

1

Sikkim

43.8

12.5

19.2

2

Arunachal Pradesh

46.7

27.1

22.9

3

Mizoram

43.6

40.2

20.9

4

Kerala

45.9

43

26.6

5

Nagaland

34.6

25.8

15.3

6

Andhra Pradesh

45.4

39.7

29.7

7

Telangana

34.7

27.3

22.7

8

Punjab

52

52.9

41.1

9

Rajasthan

21.2

23.3

13.3

10

Meghalaya

18.8

7.1

11.6

In 16 states, the ability of students to do basic arithmetic tasks fell below 2012 levels. In seven states, the number of students who were able to do basic division fell from 2021 levels by more than 10 percentage points. Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Kerala and Nagaland recorded the steepest fall in arithmetic ability from 2012 levels. However, Sikkim and Mizoram are the only states in this set to show some gains since 2018.

Mizoram (19.3 percent) and Kerala (16.4 percent) recorded the highest fall in arithmetic ability compared to 2018.

Sikkim was the only state to record a fall of 30 percentage points in the arithmetic ability of Class 5 government school students compared to 2012. In seven states, the difference, when compared to the arithmetic level in 2021, was in
double figures.

Moreover, only 6.3 percent Class 5 students in Rajasthan and 8.9 percent Class 5 students in Nagaland were able to do a simple division exercise.

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