Autar Nehru (Delhi)
The second edition of the State of Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) Report 2022, released on February 24, indicates that India’s journey towards universalisation of FLN is likely to be arduous, but possible.
While the impact of pandemic school closures and resultant learning loss of two years for children has contributed to the disappointing conclusions of the report, its overall tone is positive and it provides a roadmap for FLN implementation.
Published independently by the Gurugram-based Institute for Competitiveness India (ICI), the Indian unit of the global network of the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness of Harvard Business School, the FLN Report 2022 has been greenlighted by the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM).
Expressing optimism about the FLN mission, the report says: “The goal of universal FLN by 2026-27 is achievable, considering the rigorous and constant efforts of the government. Additionally, the recent Budget allocation towards the Samagra Shiksha Mission increased by almost 20 percent, from Rs.31,050 crore in 2022-23 to Rs.37,383 crore. Post-pandemic, after the humanitarian and health crisis, the Central government merged various schemes like Scheme for Adolescent Girls and Poshan Abhiyaan and re-aligned them as Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0 for increasing outcomes.”
The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, which for the first time acknowledged the criticality of ECCE (early childhood care & education), provides a firm foundation for urgent implementation of FLN. The Central government launched NIPUN (National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy) Bharat Mission on July 5, 2021 to attain universal FLN by 2026. In addition, to build FLN infrastructure in all states of the Indian Union and identify implementation bottlenecks, EAC-PM mandated publication of the State of Foundational Literacy and Numeracy in India Report based on the government’s Foundational Learning Study (FLS).
The FLS study is conducted by the education ministry, National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), and supported by Unicef. It measures learning outcomes of class III students based on National Achievement Survey (NAS) data. ICI uses the FLS data to prepare and publish an annual FLN Report and FLN index.
The FLN index is based on five pillars — educational infrastructure, access to education, basic health, leaning outcomes and governance, subdivided into 36 indicators. These pillars align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030. The first edition of the State of FLN was published in December 2021.
The second FLN Report 2022 is based on an FLS 2022 study which assessed learning outcomes in 20 languages of 86,000 class III children in 10,000 schools countrywide.
It awards Punjab #1 rank with the state awarded a top score of 96.36 on learning outcomes. The state’s #1 position in FLN Report 2022 is the outcome of its excellent performance in all subjects in NAS 2021.
At the same time, the ICI Report highlights poor FLN progress in other states. Countrywide, only 42 percent of class III children attained global minimum proficiency levels in numeracy and 37 percent in mathematics. For foundational literacy, Punjab is ranked #1 with 51 percent of its class III children exceeding global proficiency level in Punjabi language. On the other hand, Tamil Nadu fared the worst with only 9 percent of its school children exceeding global proficiency level.
FLN reports published annually discharge a very important function. They assess the progress of India’s 28 states towards achieving the universal FLN target by 2026-27. Moreover, the Foundational Learning Index included in FLN Report 2022 presents evidence backed proficiency levels for class III children. It goes far beyond teacher absenteeism and other routine factors.
“It also measures the core domains of education, health and governance of children below ten years and can help states identify areas that need to be addressed,” say the authors of the report.
Commenting on the FLN Report 2022, Vineet Nayar, former CEO of HCL Technologies and founder of the non-profit Sampark Foundation, which is working with 84,000 primary schools in six states, says: “NIPUN Bharat and FLN mission are vision/intention statements of the Central government, which could transform India if implemented with passion, design thinking and innovation. The FLN Report 2022 should be carefully studied by educationists in the private and government sectors to chalk out an implementation plan. Change makers have to cooperate to ensure FLN mission execution if India is to reap its demographic dividend.”