New Delhi: The performance of students in schools across the country has suffered in the five years since 2017, according to a survey by the Ministry of Education.
The National Achievement Survey (NAS) was conducted by the ministry in November last year and covered 34 lakh students from 1.18 lakh schools in 720 districts of states and union territories (UTs) from the country.
The survey tested pupils in grades 3, 5, 8 and 10 and covered a variety of topics, from maths to environmental and social sciences, with the specific concepts tested being refined for pupils in each year.
Importantly, a decline in academic achievement has been observed across grades and subjects, with national average scores falling by nine percentage points since the survey was last conducted in 2017. Moreover, all but two states – Punjab and Haryana – performed worse in the latest survey, the Indian Express reported.
“The objective of the NAS 2021 is to assess children’s learning progress and skills as an indicator of the effectiveness of the education system, in order to take appropriate measures for corrective actions at different levels”, the newspaper said citing an official statement from the ministry.
COVID and the digital divide
The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020 has been a major driver of disruption in the education sector. Not only have learning outcomes in general been disrupted by school shutdowns and closings, but the migration to online mode of learning has deepened the existing digital divide among students. from different socio-economic backgrounds.
The NAS, 2021 found that 24% of students surveyed did not have access to digital devices at home and 38% said they had difficulty carrying out learning activities at home during the pandemic.
Importantly, as many as 80% of students said they learned best in school, where they could seek help from their peers.
Results by level
Class 3 students were tested on math, language skills and their conceptual understanding of environmental science.
For languages, the national average for class 3 pupils has risen from 68% in 2017 to 62% in 2021. Similarly for mathematics, the average scores have fallen from 64% to 57% and for the environment, it is was 65% to 57%.
Moreover, the Indian Express report notes that the sum total of all states’ scores, expressed as a percentage, was lower than the national average in the 2017 survey – except for Punjab and Rajasthan.
Along with Punjab and Rajasthan, Kerala emerged as one of the top performers while the worst performers were Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
Class 5 students were tested on the same subjects as their Class 3 counterparts and the results were also broadly similar.
Average math scores increased from 53% in 2017 to 44% in 2021, while language scores increased from 55% to 58% and environmental science scores increased from 57% to 48%. Once again, Rajasthan and Punjab topped the 2017 national average and states like Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal, while still below that average, were among the top performers this year.
Telangana, Chhattisgarh and Meghalaya were the worst performers in terms of class 5 students.
Students in Class 8 were also tested on math and language skills, as well as science and social studies.
The national average in mathematics went from 42% to 36% while it went from 57% to 53% in languages and from 44% to 39% in sciences and social sciences. While Meghalaya, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh were among the worst performers, scoring well below the 2017 national average, Punjab and Rajasthan once again bucked the trend. .
The 2021 survey of 10th grade students is an outlier in terms of comparison since this score was not tested in the 2017 survey. Yet the trend of scores in common subjects to drop for grades superiors continues.
Students were tested on math, science, social studies, English and modern Indian languages and the national average scores were 32%, 35%, 37%, 43% and 41% respectively.