Pune: Rural pupils flunk reading, maths

PUNE: In a telling truth, the quality of education in rural Maharashtra has dipped in 2014.

Only 54% of standard III students can read a standard I text, a decline of three per cent from last year, while only 18.9% standard V pupils can solve a simple problem in division, a wafer-thin rise from 18.1% in 2013. A report on the status said basic reading levels are disheartening and largely unchanged from five years ago.

The second ‘R’, arithmetic skills of children in the state are particularly poor as compared to the all-India figures of 26.1%. In 2010, the survey showed that 41.4% standard V students could do a division problem but in four years, the percentage has dropped by more than half.

The tenth Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) listed these findings which were released by non-governmental organization Pratham on Tuesday. This year, the foundation surveyed 30 randomly selected villages in each of the 577 rural districts. The survey is carried out in the rural households.

Slightly older students from standard VII fared no better. There has been a two per cent decline in the percentage of these students who can read sentences. It was 40.6% in 2012 and has come down to 38.9% in 2014. As for words, the report said 52.7% class V students could read words two years ago, but in 2014 this percentage is down to 47 in Maharashtra.

Swati Bandekar, a coordinator in Pratham, said, “In many states, the reading status of children has remained largely unchanged. However, in Bihar, Assam, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra there has been a visible decline in reading levels over the last five to six years.”

There has been a drastic fall in reading words by class V students over the years. In 2009, 70.5% class V students could read words but the latest survey showed that only 47% students could do so in 2014.

Educationists said schools now have better infrastructure because of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the RTE Act, but learning must show improvement.

“Year after year, the ASER report comes out like a ritual, but the government fails to take action. New targets must be set for teachers and salaries must be paid based on their performances. The report is a true reflection of the education system in rural areas in the country and nobody seems to take enough cognizance of the results,” said educationist Heramb Kulkarni.

Madhav Chavan, chief executive officer-president, Pratham Education Foundation said, “Currently, in most states, teachers who teach class III to VIII have no clearly stated or focused learning goals to achieve except to complete the syllabus. The Right to Education Act says it is the duty of the teachers to assess each child’s learning ability and provide additional instruction as required. The government has admitted several times that learning levels are low but there is no measure of how low compared to any set standard. But the idea is quite clear__ those who lag behind have a right to be helped to catch up.”

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