The survey was conducted in 26 districts across 24 states, covering 1,514 villages and 36,930 children in the 4-8 age group. In Tamil Nadu, 1,550 children in 60 villages of Vellore district were surveyed.
The enrollment in Vellore district was more than 99% against the national average of 90%.
“Among Class I students, 75.4% couldn’t read an alphabet. In Class II, it was 40.4% and 26.6% in Class III. Only 10.9% of Class I students could read an alphabet and 10% a word, while 3.7% could read Class I text. Among Class II students, 14.5% could read an alphabet, 33.2% a word and 11.9% Class I text. Only 31.8% in Class III could read Class I text,” it said. Nationally, 39% in Class I and 22.3% in Class II couldn’t read a letter.
Numerical ability was also poor with 32.9% in Class I unable to recognise single digit numbers and 38.4% able to recognise up to 9. In Class II, 14.3% coudn’t recognise single digit numbers, while it fell to 4.8% students in Class III.
ASER research manager G Kumaresan said children’s performance was positively related to their mothers’ education level. “Only 14.7% of those whose mothers never enrolled in schools could read a words, while 49.3% of those whose mothers who studied upto Class XI and could read it.”
S Moorthy, state coordinator, Forum for Education Development, said one of the main reasons for the dip in the reading ability in the last few years is many government schools do not have one teacher per class.
R Doss, general secretary of Thamizhaga Arambapalli Asiriyar Kootani, said schemes like activity based learning (ABL) was one of the main reasons for the dip. Many primary schools had just two teachers, mostly engaged in non-academic work like preparation population registers and election related works, he said.