Dreams of demographic dividend and reality of educational quality

The latest ASER report once again highlights gender divide, learning deficit in youths

GN Bureau | January 17, 2018


#right to education   #ASER   #education   #RTE   #Annual Status of Education Report  
Dreams of demographic dividend and reality of educational quality
Dreams of demographic dividend and reality of educational quality

Will India ever be able to achieve the dream of making best use of its demographic dividend? That question becomes relevant again with the release of the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2017.

According to the findings of the survey by NGO Pratham’s ASER centre, more number of students between the ages 14 and 18 years continue to be enrolled in schools or colleges, but the issues like gender divide, large learning deficit and inadequacy to perform daily tasks continue to afflict the future of the nation.
 
 
The survey was conducted in 26 rural districts from 24 states, in which 23,868 households and 28,323 youths participated. The 13th year of this survey also marked the eighth year of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, which meant that the 14 year olds examined for this survey were among the first ones to benefit from the Act that made education free and compulsory for children of the age between 6 and 14 years. 
 
The report revealed that 92.1 percent of the 15 year olds surveyed, continued to remain in the school or colleges, even though the compulsion ceases at the age of 14 years. However, the proportion of youth not enrolled in school or college increases with age. Thirty percent of the 18 year olds surveyed were not enrolled in any formal educational setup.
 
“It is time that India moved to make secondary education a fundamental right by including this age group [14-18 years] in the RTE Act," says Anjela Taneja, director, education, CARE India.
 
Selection of the age group for this year’s survey assumes greater significance, since the youths from this age bracket are entering or will soon be entering the workforce. A deep gender divide in the findings is an alarm bell. The World Bank and several other organisations have time and again flagged the dearth of women in the workforce. We can see the root of the issue in the findings that show that more and more young women move away from formal education as they grow older. Performance of the surveyed young women in activities like reading and performing basic arithmetic calculations was poorer too, than the young men.
 
Another highlight of the report is the low percentage of youths opting for vocational courses. Only five percent of the surveyed children were taking some form of vocational training. They also tend to take short duration courses of six months or less. In context of the Skill India campaign that focuses on skill development in youths for employment, the ground reality from the villages does not present a promising picture.
 

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