In 2017, ASER focused on an older age group, youth who are 14 to 18 years old and have moved just beyond the elementary school age.
Enrollment gap between males and females increases with age
The report found the enrollment gap between males and females in the formal education system increases with age. "There is hardly any difference between boys' and girls' enrollment at age 14; but at age 18, 32% females are not enrolled as compared to 28% males," it says.
The proportion of youth not enrolled in school or college increases with age. At age 14, the percentage of youth not enrolled is 5%. By age 18, this figure increases to 30%. Overall, about 5% of youth are taking some type of vocational course. This includes those who are enrolled in school or college as well as those who are not currently enrolled. Youth who take vocational courses tend to take short duration courses of 6 months or less. Of those who are doing vocational courses, the highest percentage of youth (34%) are enrolled in courses which are 3 months or shorter, and another 25% are enrolled in courses between 4 and 6 months in duration.
A substantial proportion of youth in the 14-18 age group are working (42%), regardless of whether they are enrolled in formal education or not. Of those who work, 79% work in agriculture - almost all on their own family's farm. Also, more than three quarters of all youth do household chores daily - 77 % of males and 89% of females.
According to report, the overall patterns indicate that having basic foundational skills like reading and arithmetic are very helpful even for daily tasks and common calculations.
"However, not everyone who has these foundational skills can correctly complete these everyday tasks. Similarly, although having completed at least 8 years of schooling is an advantage, not all youth who have done so can do these tasks. Females perform worse than males on almost all tasks. These data show that substantial numbers of young people who have completed 8 years of schooling have difficulty applying their literacy and numeracy skills to real world situations," it said.
The report noted that the reading ability in regional languages and in English seems to improve slightly with age (more 18 year-olds can read than 14 year olds), the same does not seem to apply to math.
"The proportion of youth who have not acquired basic math skills by age 14 is the same as that of 18 year olds. Learning deficits seen in elementary school in previous years seem to carry forward as young people go from being adolescents to young adults," it said.
ASER 2017 also asked youth about their study and professional aspirations. About 60% youth in the age group 14-18 years wanted to study beyond Std XII. This percentage is almost half (35%) among youth who could not read a Std II level text fluently.
With respect to participation in financial processes and institutions, close to 75% youth have their own bank account. Interestingly, a slightly higher percentage of females have bank accounts than males in this age group. 51% have deposited or withdrawn money from the bank. 16% have used an ATM or debit card, but only 5% have ever done any transaction using a payment app or mobile banking.
Why age group of 14 - 18 year olds
Near-universal enrollment and automatic promotion through the elementary stage have resulted in more and more children successfully completing elementary schooling. According to official figures from the District Information System for Education (DISE), enrollment in Std VIII almost doubled in the decade between 2004-5 and 2014-15, from 11 million to almost 22 million. According to Census 2011, one out of every ten Indians is currently in the age bracket of 14-18. This amounts to more than 100 million or 10 crore youth in all. For all of these reasons, we felt it was important to look closely at this age group of 14 - 18 year olds.
ASER 2017 was carried out in a total of 28 districts of 24 states.
About 2000 volunteers from 35 partner institutions, visited more than 25,000 households in 1641 villages, surveying more than 30,000 14 to 18 year olds in all.
"Unless we ensure that our young people reach adulthood with the knowledge, skills, and opportunities they need to help themselves, their families, and their communities move forward, India's much awaited 'demographic dividend' will not materialize. Our interactions with youth in this age group suggest that as a country we urgently need to attend to their needs. ASER 2017 is an attempt to shine a spotlight on this situation and hopefully start a nation-wide discussion about the way forward," said ASER 2017 'Beyond Basics' in its conclusion.
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