A NATIONWIDE study conducted by the Center in March found that 37% of students enrolled in Class III have “limited” fundamental numeracy skills, such as number identification, while 11% “lack the knowledge and the most basic skills.
With a sample of 86,000 students in 10,000 schools, the study – the largest ever by scale at the foundational level – also assessed students’ literacy skills in 20 languages, including English. While 15% lacked “basic skills” in English, 30% had “limited skills”.
The study was conducted jointly by the Union Department of Education and the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) from March 23-26.
Unlike the National Achievement Survey (NAS), which assesses the learning outcomes of students in grades III, V, VIII and X through a test based on multiple-choice questions (MCQs) every three years, Findings from the Foundational Learning Study (FLS) were based on individual interviews with each participant.
“Because the study was based on interviews, a trial was carried out in order to standardize the interactions of the students with the field interviewers. Otherwise, the same student would be assessed differently by two different investigators,” an official said.
Based on their performance, students were classified into four groups: those who lacked the most basic knowledge and skills; those with limited knowledge and skills; those who had developed sufficient knowledge and skills; and those who had developed superior knowledge and skills.
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According to a copy of the report seen by The Indian Expressstudents who could partially complete their grade level tasks were categorized as ‘limited skills’, while those who failed to complete even simple grade level tasks were categorized as ‘lacking the most elementary”.
In numeracy, Tamil Nadu at 29% had the maximum number of students who could not complete the most basic grade level tasks, followed by Jammu and Kashmir (28%), Assam, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat (18%) .
Nationally, 11% lacked basic school-level skills; 37 percent had limited skills; 42% had sufficient skills; and 10% had higher skills.
Tasks included number identification, number discrimination (identifying the largest number), addition and subtraction, division and multiplication, fractions, identifying patterns including numbers and shapes.
States and union territories where more than 40% of children fell into the “limited skills” category included Arunachal Pradesh (49%), Chandigarh (47%), Chhattisgarh (41%), Goa (50 %), Gujarat (44%), Haryana (41%), Madhya Pradesh (46%), Nagaland (56%) and Tamil Nadu (48%).
In literacy, scores were based on phonological awareness, letter decoding, word decoding, non-word decoding, reading fluency, and comprehension. For example, a child had to read a text aloud and ask questions based on this text, which was not part of the school curriculum.
In English, 15% of students lacked even basic skills, 30% had limited skills, 21% had sufficient skills, while 34% had fairly superior skills.
In Hindi, 21% were in the lowest performing bracket, while 32% had limited skills.
Among other Indian languages, the proportion of students who lacked basic skills was as follows: 17% in Marathi, 20% in Bengali, 17% in Gujarati, 17% in Malayalam, 42% in Tamil and 25% in % in Urdu.
The proportion of students with limited proficiency in these languages was as follows: 39% in Marathi, 43% in Bengali, 40% in Gujarati, 39% in Malayalam, 35% in Tamil and 40% in Urdu.
The significance of the findings is highlighted in the report, with Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan calling the study “critical”, pointing out that the ability to read and write, and perform basic operations with numbers , is a necessary basis and an “indispensable prerequisite for all future schooling”.
School education secretary Anita Karwal said “80-90% of the brain is developing by the time a child is 6-7 years old. This is why the focus on building a solid foundation for better growth, development and learning in the early years becomes one of the most important indicators for the development of productive human capital and efficient “.
According to the report, the findings will lay the foundation for NIPUN Bharat (National Initiative for Reading Proficiency with Comprehension and Numeracy), the Centre’s program aimed at improving basic learning. “The study also aims to establish benchmarks of reading proficiency for the mastery and understanding of each of the languages assessed. It will also provide data to report on the Sustainable Development Goals at the global level,” he said.