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Decline in reading and numerical skills of students in West Bengal

Decline in reading and numerical skills of students in West Bengal: ASER External

February 9, 2022
Mita Mukherjee

Basic reading skills and numerical abilities of school students in West Bengal have significantly reduced because of the learning loss caused due to prolonged closure of schools during Covid-19, according to a survey carried out in the state.

The survey conducted by Pratham Education Foundation and Liver Foundation, West Bengal in December 2021 found that only 27.7 percent of children in Class III could read Class II- level text books which is down from 36.6 per cent in 2018 and 32.9 per cent in 2014.

The finding further showed that around 48 percent of students of Class V could read Class II text books as against 50.5 in 2018, 50. 2 in 2016 and 51.8 in 2014.

The survey report –Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) was launched virtually by Nobel Laureate, economist Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee on Wednesday .

Releasing the report, Banerjee said large numbers of children going to government schools have limited access to basic learning and teachers have problems in teaching them in class. Once the schools reopen, teachers are likely to face a bigger problem teaching such students.  He stressed the need for developing a new teaching methodology to make up for the  loss.

“When schools reopen, a new methodology has to be adopted. There is a need to identify the areas in which  children are weak. The focus should not be on the grade-level teaching. Children will be able to progress faster if they are made to start learning from the level where they are found to be when they come back to school,” Banerjee said.

The survey also showed a drop in arithmetic skills. The percentage of children in Class I who can at least recognize single-digit numbers reduced from 77.8 percent in 2018 to 68.5 per cent in 2021.In 2014 the percentage was 74 percent.

“ A drop in Arithmetic ability is also visible among older children. For example, the proportion of children in Class III who can do subtraction fell by 8.2 per cent between 2018 and 2021.”

The percentage of children in Class II who can at least read words has dropped from 66.2 percent in 2018 to 53 percent in 2021.

The survey was carried out among 11,189 children across 17 districts in West Bengal.    

 Echoing the opinion of Banerjee, Pratham Education Foundation CEO Rukmini Banerjee said: “Before moving into teaching-learning activities to grade level, it is essential that they are given time and opportunity to develop appropriate physical, socio-emotional, cognitive, pre-math and language skills.”

However, the findings of the survey revealed that the enrolment of students between the age of six to 14 years has increased to 90.9 per cent in 2018 to 95.2 in 2021.

The rise in enrolment will make it easier for the schools to track the children who have not attended the classes during the past two years.

Also read: 50% students don’t understand basic financial concepts, finds study

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