The NGO Pratham has been doing an annual survey of children’s education in India for several years now. The ASER 2010 report makes for interesting reading; it has some good and some bad in it. The heartening news is that enrollment of children of all ages has increased. The disheartening news, apparently, is that the percentage of children passing various specific indicators has decreased, including the percentage of class 5 children able to read at the class 2 level.
What could the causes be? There are two potential reasons that I can see.
- The first possibility is that the quality of teaching has declined — that is, the previously existing teachers have lowered their standards for some reason.
- The other possibility is that the existing teachers have maintained their quality, but the new capacity required to handle the increased enrollment hasn’t materialized.
In the first case, the children are worse off than they were a few years ago. In the second, every child is better off than before, even though the indicator has decreased.
This latter case more likely applies to another measure in the ASER report:
the proportion of Std I children who can recognize numbers (1-9) has declined from 69.3% in 2009 to 65.8% in 2010.
This is perhaps attributable to the newer enrollees, some of whom might have been enrolled in class 1 directly without completing kindergarten.