Observations from ASER Report 2013

ASER (Impact in Hindi / Urdu) stands for Annual Status of Education Report of the Pratham NGO. This is an annual survey that aims to provide reliable estimates of children’s enrolment and basic learning levels for each district and state in India. ASER has been conducted every year since 2005 in all rural districts of India. It is the largest citizen-led survey in India. It is also the only annual source of information on children’s learning outcomes available in India today. Here is the relevant information:

About Surveying Methods

  • ASER is a household-based rather than school-based survey. The surveyers divide the districts into small villages, hemlets, then households and even number of kitchens in each household. In each rural district, 30 villages are sampled. In each village, 20 randomly selected households are surveyed. This process generates a total of 600 households per district, or about 3,00,000 households for the country as a whole. Approximately 7,00,000 children in the age group 3-16 who are residents in these households are surveyed.
  • The objective is to include all children– those who have never been to school or have dropped out, as well as those who are in government schools, private schools, religious schools or anywhere else.
  • The surveyers test the children in the age group 5-16 in basic reading and basic arithmetic. The same test is administered to all children. The highest level of reading tested corresponds to what is expected in Std 2; in 2012 this test was administered in 16 regional languages. Every year, some additional tests are also administered. These vary from year to year. In 2007, 2009, and 2012, for example, children were tested in basic English.In addition, basic household information is collected every year.
  • The survey itself is coordinated by ASER Centre and facilitated by the Pratham network. It is conducted by close to 30,000 volunteers from partner organisations in each district. All kinds of institutions partner with ASER: colleges, universities, NGOs, youth groups, women’s organisations, self-help groups and others.

The ASER model has been adapted for use in several countries around the world: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Pakistan, Mali and Senegal.


  • Enrolment in the 6-14 age group continues to be very high. But the proportion of out of school children has also increased, especially among girls in the age group of 11 to 14.
  • Private school enrolment continues to rise in almost all states. Increase in private school enrolment is seen in almost all states, with the exception of Kerala, Nagaland, Manipur and Meghalaya (where private school enrolment was over 40% even last year) and Tripura.
  • Reading levels continue to be a cause for serious concern. More than half of all children in Std. V are at least three grade levels behind where they should be
  • 2012 was the year of mathematics. But it has been a bad year for basic arithmetic for children in India
  • Private inputs into children’s education, such as private schooling and private tutoring, are widespread. And their influence on children’s learning outcomes is substantial.
  • The proportion of small schools is rising in India.
  • School facilities show improvement over time. Based on RTE norms, pupil teacher ratio shows improvement. 73% of all schools visited had drinking water available. Mid-Day meal searved in 87% schools.

Some observations:

  • Overall the survey has painted a dismal picture and hints towards a crisis in India’s primary school education.
  • The 2012 report details a rapid decline in students’ ability to keep up with the syllabus. It has found, for example, that only 30 per cent of children in Class III could read a text appropriate for the skill set of Class I students — compared to 50 per cent just four years ago. Arithmetic skills have registered a similar decline.

This slide comes against the backdrop of the implementation of the landmark Right to Education Act, with its guarantee of putting children in the 6-14 age group in school and of quality learning, encapsulated in the phrase, age appropriate mainstreaming. Clearly, success in increasing enrolment and upgrading school infrastructure is not translating into better learning outcomes.


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