Understanding the regional contours of the Early Grade Reading problem in India

Team  READ Alliance conducted a research on the status of early grade reading in India based on extrapolations of different data sources. Here is an excerpt outlining the reading landscape through data about how many children in India are not reading in India and where they are located geographically

In 2013-14, around 132 million children were enrolled in primary school (grades 1 to 5) in IndiaOf this population, about 47 million rural children were not able to read. Adding to this mammoth figure, around 3.4 million children in the age group of 6-10 years were out of school in 2013-14.

blogThis means there are currently at least 50 million primary school-aged children in India who are not learning to read as shown in Figure 1. This figure is an underestimation because the ASER test is only a ‘floor test’ assessing the most basic levels of reading ability. Passing the ASER test, therefore, does not indicate that a child has mastered all the sub-skills associated with reading. Assessments like the National Achievement Survey (NAS) and early grade State Level Achievement Survey (SLAS) can offer more comprehensive information on reading performance, albeit only for specific primary school grades. The reading performance estimates in our analysis relate only to rural children. There are likely more children from urban areas who cannot read even at this most basic level, especially in the light of NAS’ finding from the most recent survey cycles that there was no significant difference between the language performance of rural and urban areas at the national level in both grades 3 and 5.  Thus the estimates  presented from the analysis are most likely an under representation of the reading problem, but provide a helpful starting point in terms of scope and severity. The reason for our rural focus is that these areas present greater potential for impact given that 76% of children enrolled in primary schools in 2013-14 were from rural areas of the country (DISE 2014).

To understand the regional contours of the early grade reading problem, state-wise reading performance of primary school-aged children was analysed for the last three years. States were classified into tertiles based on the proportion of their Class III students who could read Class I level text and above as shown in Figure 2. We interpret the Class III performance to indicate end-of-class II achievements of students.  Our focus on Classes I and II is due to the high potential for impact for this demographic in terms of early grade reading.

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