New Delhi: About 25 per cent of India's children in class 8 cannot read text prescribed for class 2, and math remains a serious challenge across classes, a school education report says.
The report on the status of education in 2014 by ASER, an NGO, says basic reading levels in India are disheartening and largely unchanged from five years ago.
This applies to the children's mother tongue as well as English, where there has been a decline in upper grades. In 2009, 60 per cent children in class 8 could read simple sentences in English; in 2014, only about 47 per cent could, ASER finds.
Even with math, basic subtractions like 46-29, or 63-39 are proving to be a hurdle for class 4 students. Data from rural schools shows that close to 60 percent still struggle with it. In fact, over the years, there has been a decline in the ability of rural school children to do basic two digit subtraction. In 2010, 57.7 per cent children in class 4 could do subtraction, but 2014 has seen a drop to 40.3 per cent.
It isn't any better for basic division sums either. Whereas 36.2 per cent students in class 5 could do division in 2010, the number has dropped to 26.1 per cent in 2014. While in class 2, 19.5 per cent children could not recognise numbers up to nine.
Even with English, less than 25 per cent children can read basic sentences like 'what is the time?' Or 'I like to read', fluently.
Enrolment levels have stayed more or less constant at around 96 per cent in rural schools across the country, with more children in rural India now going to private schools. School facilities have improved, the report finds, though attendance of teachers and children has not shown a significant rise.
Drinking water is now available in 75.6 per cent schools, as compared to 72.7 per cent in 2010, and 65 per cent schools have toilets compared to 47 per cent four years ago. In four states - Kerala, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana - more than 75 per cent schools visited had usable toilets.
Kerala and Haryana also find place on the list of top five states with private school enrolment higher than 50 per cent in the elementary stage. Manipur, Uttar Pradesh and Meghalaya are the other three.
The survey is facilitated by Pratham, an NGO that works in the field of education. This survey has covered 577 rural districts across the country covering a total of 569229 children. The survey is currently in its tenth year and has also helped some state governments tweak their school policies on the basis on previous findings of ASER.