The report points out that the increase in public school enrollment is almost uniform across all age groups and levels.
The enrollment rate of children in public schools has increased from 65.8% to 70.3% in the past year, according to the latest Annual State of Education Report (ASER) survey. The ASER survey 2021 aims to capture the transition in the country’s education system as the Covid-19 pandemic shows signs of receding.
The trend of more students relying on courses, which also appeared in the ASER 2020 survey, continues, with the proportion rising from 32.5% to 39.2%. This is seen as the natural result of families seeking outside support due to the prolonged school closures, the report says.
The digital divide continues to be of concern, as up to 26.1% of children with smartphones at home do not have access to the device. Young children are poorer when it comes to access to smartphones, with up to 40% not having access to them despite having devices at home, the report says. The report was prepared on the basis of a telephone survey of 75,234 children aged 5 to 16 in 581 rural districts in 25 states.
Releasing the report, Wilima Wadhwa, director of the ASER Center, said the survey, which was carried out in September-October, mainly focused on registration, access to learning materials, digital devices and support for children at home. “While the situation is still far from normal, we are seeing major changes,” she said.
The survey covered up to 76,606 households in 17,814 villages. The center also reached 4,872 schools that reopened and 2,427 schools that were still closed when appeals were made to school authorities, including principals and teachers. Wadhwa said that while the enrollment rate of children in public schools remained stable until around 2020, it has shown a dramatic increase of five percentage points since last September.
According to the fine print, the proportion of children in public schools has increased from 64.3% in 2018 to 65.8% in 2020 to 70.3% in 2021. On the other hand, enrollment in private schools has decreased, for the first time in recent years, rising from 28.8% in 2020 to 24.4% in 2021.
“There can be several reasons for the increase in enrollment in public schools. Families suffered financial hardship during the pandemic. Additionally, during the pandemic, many affordable private schools have closed across the country. Many migrant families have returned to the villages, ”Wadhwa said. Moreover, the proportion of out-of-school children remained the same as last year at 4.6%.
The report points out that the increase in public school enrollment is almost uniform across all age groups and levels. For example, in the 7-10 age group between boys and girls, the proportion increased from 60% to 68% and from 68% to 72%, respectively.
However, there are large variations between states, with the increase mainly due to the larger northern states and all southern states except Telangana. In Uttar Pradesh, public school enrollment has increased astonishing 13 percentage points, compared to 12 percentage points in Kerala. All the southern states except Telangana saw an increase in enrollment of around 8 percentage points.
The other highlight of the report is that 39.2% of students surveyed relied on courses, up from 32.5% in 2020 and 28.6% in 2018. The jump was seen in all states, including Bihar and West Bengal, where students were found to be more dependent on tuition fees than their counterparts in other states even before the pandemic. In Kerala, however, there was a drop from 28.8% in 2020 to 18.8% for reasons still unknown, Wadhwa said.
In terms of access to digital devices, an important parameter to assess the state of education in the era of online courses, the survey found that smartphone penetration has doubled in rural India from 36.5% in 2018 to 61.8% in 2020. to 67.6%. in 2021. However, 26.1% of students surveyed said they did not have access to smartphones despite having one at home. The state-level breakout also shows a large disparity with Bihar and West Bengal showing smartphone penetration below 60 percent, while Kerala and Himachal Pradesh have near universal availability of these devices in households.
The ASER report also noted that the probability of a household owning a smartphone increases with the level of education of the parents. Although the availability of smartphones in homes across the country has seen a sharp increase since 2018, many states have outpaced Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, the survey results show.
Overall, the availability of smartphones in the homes of enrolled students nearly doubled from 2018 to 2021, from 36.5% to 67.6%. But the figures by state show that the increase has been very uneven, with some lagging states catching up with the best-placed, while some need an additional boost despite some improvements.
For example, in 2018, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Nagaland had 58%, 53.4%, and 50% of enrolled student households, respectively, with at least one smartphone. In 2021, the corresponding shares increased to 95.6, 92.9 and 92.9%, respectively. In Kerala, where 80.9% of student families owned smartphones even in 2018, the share increased further to 97.5%.
By contrast, Bihar reported that 54.4% of surveyed student households with smartphones, up from 27.2% in 2018; West Bengal 58.4% versus 26.8% in 2018 and 58.9% in Uttar Pradesh versus 30.4% in 2018. The results reflect a recent report from the Union Ministry of Education that showed that the digital divide has disproportionately hit some states like Bihar.
The ASER report also noted that the probability of a household owning a smartphone increases with the level of education of the parents. “In 2021, more than 80% of children whose parents had studied to at least the ninth grade had a smartphone available at home, compared with just over 50% of children whose parents had studied until the ninth grade or less. “, says, capturing the impact of the pandemic-induced disruption on marginalized and economically oppressed people.
But a sign that even disadvantaged people have tried to catch up, figures show that even among children whose parents are in the low-educational category, more than a quarter of households had purchased a new smartphone for the night education of their children.
Either way, children’s access to smartphones in a family has been found to be limited across all income groups. “Although more than two-thirds of all enrolled children have a smartphone at home, just over a quarter have full access to it for their studies (27%), while almost half have partial access (47%) and the remaining quarter do not have any access (26.1%) ”, says the report. Even in terms of access, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal are at the bottom of the ranking. In Bihar, 53.8% of children in households equipped with a smartphone cannot access it, 34.3% and 46.5% in West Bengal.