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Reading, math skills found wanting in rural schools

Staff Reporter

CHENNAI: Nearly 47.5 per cent of the students in classes III to V in the schools in rural areas of Tamil Nadu cannot read a paragraph from a class I text book. Similarly, 79.5 per cent of the class III students do not know how to do subtraction. These are some of the findings of the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2010.

While the number of students in the 6-14 age group enrolling in schools has increased from 97.9 per cent in 2006 to 99 per cent in 2010 in rural areas of the State, there is not much improvement in the reading and arithmetic skills over the years. In fact, the percentage of children who can read is lower in Tamil Nadu than the national average. For instance, only 30.6 per cent of class V students can read a story. The national average is 53.7 per cent.

The nationwide report was commissioned by Pratham, an NGO. In the State, the survey was undertaken by a network of NGOs in 30 districts and 20 households were covered in every village. Nearly 26,109 children were assessed by visiting their homes.

Speaking at a press conference, V. Vasanthi Devi, co-convenor Kalvi Network and former Vice-Chancellor, Manonmaniam University, said learning outcomes are totally neglected in the State. While Activity Based Learning (ABL) has brought in a lot of difference in the classroom and children like to come to school, it is not producing the desired results. “Tamil Nadu does not take the ASER report seriously apparently. States such as Bihar and Punjab have been making corrections based on the report,” she said.

According to Balaji Sampath, founder, AID India, schools in Tamil Nadu stress that students come to school but they are not measuring their learning levels. “If you stop measuring outcomes, how will you access the problem? Government has to come out with an action plan,” he said.

The report also points out that private school enrolment is increasing. The number of five-year-old children going to private institutions had tripled in the last five years. However, the reading and arithmetic level of children in private and government schools does not show any significant difference. Nearly, 71.7 per cent of children studying in a private school in class III cannot subtract.

With regard to following the guidelines prescribed under the RTE Act, the report says that 56.1 per cent schools are complying with student-teacher ratio.

Among other parameters studied: 80.5 per cent schools have drinking water facility and 61 per cent have compound wall.

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