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Over half the students in rural India struggle with basic math: Report

Photo by Kavya Kodiya/Pixabay

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASRE) 2023 ‘Beyond Basics’ survey revealed that 52.7% of the students aged between 14 to 18 in rural India cannot solve a simple three-digit division problem (a skill usually expected in grade three/four), 42% could not read English sentences, 25% cannot read fluently in their regional language, while 98% know how to use smartphones.

It said that female students (76%) performed better than their male counterparts (70.9%) in reading a Class 2 level text in their regional language. Whereas, males did better than their female counterparts in arithmetic and English reading.

The report released on Wednesday by the non-governmental organization Pratham, was the data of the survey titled “Beyond Basics”, reaching a total of 34,745 youth in the age group 14-18 years, conducted in 28 districts across 26 states of rural India.

The report collected data regarding youths’ current activity and their ability to do basic and applied tasks, with a special focus on access to digital devices and skills to do digital tasks. 

It revealed that more than half the youth are enrolled in the Arts/Humanities stream (55.7%), followed by STEM (31.7%) and Commerce (9.4%) among which females are less likely to be enrolled in the STEM stream (28.1%) than males (36.3%).  

ASER 2023 set out to explore the current scenario past the Covid era, of digital awareness and the application of digital skills. Although most of them know how to use smartphones, of all youth that use social media, only about half are familiar with the online safety settings that were included in the survey with males being more likely to know about them than females.

During the reference week, among the youth who can use a smartphone, two-thirds reported having used it for some education-related activity, a quarter of youth who are not currently enrolled also report doing education-related activities while about 80% report having used their smartphone to do an entertainment-related activity.

The survey pointed out that across all digital tasks, males outperform females, performance on digital tasks improves with education level and the ability to do digital tasks increases with basic reading proficiency. It emphasized that the application of skills in daily life situations needs substantial improvement.

The report said, “Males outperform females across all financial calculation tasks,” adding that those who can do division are more likely to be able to do all these tasks.

In its concluding note, the report said that as a country, we need to equip our young people adequately with the essential knowledge, skills, and opportunities, they need to drive their progress and that of their families and communities. India’s anticipated “demographic dividend” and “digital dividend” can achieve their full potential if this is done, it added. 

The survey said that it focused on the particular age group, as it is important to understand the level of basic skills among youth as well as their preparedness for tasks that go “beyond basics”. Foundational skills in literacy and numeracy have a great deal of importance for any higher studies, its application and execution. The report draws attention to the concerns to be addressed regarding the “future of India’

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