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ASER Report: Over 50% Youth Struggle in Basic Maths; Girls Lack Digital Skills

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2023 by Pratham Foundation reveals that despite 86.8% of Indian youth being enrolled in educational institutions, many struggle with basic arithmetic and reading skills into their teenage years. Focusing on the 14-18 age group in the country with the world’s largest youth population, the survey, conducted in 28 districts across 26 states, examines proficiency in applying reading, math, and digital skills to daily life. It underscores the need for enhanced digital literacy, considering the rising demand for such skills. The report aims to analyze the educational abilities, enrollment, and aspirations of rural Indian children. The report concludes with some key findings as follows:

High enrollment rate for youth

In a survey of 14-18-year-olds, 86.8% were enrolled in educational institutions. The majority (52.5%) were in standard X or below, 27.6% in standard XI or XII, 6.7% in undergraduate or other courses, and 13.2% not enrolled. Notably, 32.6% of 18-year-olds were not in school or college. Discontinuation rates were 23.6% for females and 24.4% for males aged 17-18, with family constraints cited by females and lack of interest by males. Among those in XI or higher, 55.7% opted for arts/humanities, and 31.7% for STEM, with humanities being more popular among females and STEM among males.

ASER Report: Over 50% Youth Struggle in Basic Maths; Girls Lack Digital Skills

ASER Report: Boys do better than girls in reading and mathematics

Boys excel over girls in various academic domains, including reading, arithmetic, and financial calculations, according to recent findings. In everyday arithmetic tasks such as time calculations, weight addition, and length measurement, males consistently outperformed females. However, 40% of this age group struggles with basic English sentence reading. In a test assessing the ability to comprehend instructions using an O.R.S. packet image, more males (69.2%) answered 3 out of 4 questions correctly compared to females (61.7%). Financial calculations, budget management, discounts, and loan repayments were areas where males consistently surpassed females. Rural youth faced challenges, with only 43.3% solving a basic 3-digit by 1-digit division problem.

High access to smartphones but little understanding of online safety

ASER Report: Over 50% Youth Struggle in Basic Maths; Girls Lack Digital Skills

Nearly 90% of youth have smartphone access, with males more likely to own one than females. Over a quarter have used smartphones for online tasks, but gender disparities exist. Males (37.6%) surpass females (19%) in accessing online services. However, almost half lack online safety knowledge, with 52% unable to report/block a profile, 48% unaware of making a profile private, and 52% unfamiliar with changing passwords. Despite widespread digital access, a significant portion lacks essential online safety skills, highlighting the need for education and awareness programs to bridge this knowledge gap.

Women are involved in household work more than men

A study on youth engagement in household work reveals that a higher percentage of females, 85.8%, are involved in daily tasks like cooking and cleaning compared to 65.9% of males. The gender disparity persists across educational levels, with females consistently showing higher engagement in household work, ranging from 82.6% to 90.6%. Unenrolled females exhibit a significantly higher involvement (94%) than males (65.7%). Additionally, more males (40.3%) than females (28%) report engaging in non-household work for at least 15 days in the preceding month, often in family farm activities. The findings underscore the prevailing gender gap in domestic responsibilities.

ASER Report: Girls are more inspired to study after High School

ASER Report: Over 50% Youth Struggle in Basic Maths; Girls Lack Digital Skills

The study reveals notable gender-based disparities in aspirations and motivations for post-secondary education among Indian youth. Despite a higher percentage of boys expressing a reluctance to continue studying after completing Std XII, more girls aspired to pursue education beyond this level. Approximately 44.3% of females aimed for undergraduate studies, surpassing the 41.2% of males. Postgraduate aspirations were also higher among females (21%). As compared to males (18.2%).

Focus Group Discussions in government senior secondary schools across three districts indicated a consistent trend: girls desired education up to the undergraduate level, while boys leaned towards discontinuing education after school. Societal expectations regarding marriage age played a significant role for girls, with delayed marriages seen as facilitating extended educational pursuits. Girls’ motivations included skill acquisition for managing homes and genuine enjoyment of school, while boys often prioritized early employment to meet financial needs, with variations in the urgency observed across different regions.

ASER Report District Wise Survey

In a survey of various districts, Khammam in Telangana exhibited the highest rate of non-enrollment among 14-15-year-olds at 22.1%, with 26.0% of males and 17.4% of females not enrolled. Conversely, Cooch Behar in West Bengal had the highest enrollment rate at 95.9%, with 93.0% of males and 98.1% of females enrolled. For 17-18-year-olds, Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest non-enrollment rate at 59.1%, with 57.1% of males and 60.3% of females not enrolled. In the same age group, South Tripura in Tripura showed the highest enrollment rate in government institutions at 85.4%, with 83.8% of males and 87.6% of females enrolled.

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