Context: According to a recent Annual State of Education Report (ASER) survey, about 20% of rural children have no textbooks at home due to COVID-19 impact across the country. 

Key findings of the survey:

Coronavirus | 20% of rural school children had no textbooks due to COVID-19 impact, finds ASER survey

Source: TH

  • In Andhra Pradesh, less than 35% of children had textbooks, while only 60% had textbooks in Rajasthan. 
  • More than 98% had textbooks in West Bengal, Nagaland and Assam.
  • Use of smartphones: 
    • In 2018, ASER surveyors found that about 36% of rural households with school-going children had smartphones and by 2020, that figure had spiked to 62%. 
    • This may indicate why WhatsApp has become the most popular mode of transmitting learning materials to students. 

About ASER survey: 

  • A nationwide survey of rural education and learning outcomes
    • In terms of reading and arithmetic skills which continues to be an important national source of information about children’s foundational skills across the country.
  • It has been conducted by the NGO Pratham for the last 15 years. 
  • Data Collection:The 2020 survey was conducted via phone calls, reaching 52,227 rural households with school age children in 30 States and Union Territories.
  • ASER surveys use Census 2011 as the sampling frame.
  • Since 2016, ASER switched to an alternate-year cycle where this ‘basic’ ASER is conducted every other year (2016, 2018, 2020), and in alternate years ASER focuses on a different aspect of children’s schooling and learning.
    • In 2017, ASER 'Beyond Basics' focused on the abilities, experiences, and aspirations of youth in the 14-18 age group.
    • In 2018 ASER had data on enrollment patterns in age group 4 to 8.


Way ahead:

  • When schools reopen, it will be important to continue to monitor who goes back to school, and very importantly to understand whether there is learning loss as compared to previous years. 
  • Going forward, schools must find ways to build on home support: As 80% of families provide learning support to children, whether from parents or elder siblings.