Published: 18th January 2023
98% School Enrollment: India's all-time high despite pandemic closures
ASER is a nationwide, citizen-led household survey that provides a snapshot of children's schooling and learning in rural India and the first ASER was conducted in 2005
The 2022 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) was released on January 18 and found that school enrollment reached an all-time high of 98% despite prolonged closures due to the pandemic. The report also noted a significant increase in enrollment in government schools, as per a PTI story.
Furthermore, the report highlighted that the proportion of children aged six to 14 who are not currently enrolled is almost half of what it was in 2018 and is the lowest it has been in the decade since the Right to Education Act was implemented. Additionally, it stated that the enrollment rate for this age group has been above 95% for the past 15 years and that despite school closures during the pandemic, overall enrollment figures have risen from 97.2% in 2018 to 98.4% in 2022, with the proportion of children in this age group who are not currently enrolled dropping to 1.6%.
The report also noted that in rural India, the proportion of three-year-olds enrolled in some form of early childhood education has increased to 78.3% in 2022, a rise of 7.1 percentage points from 2018 levels. It stated that there has been a significant shift in the enrollment patterns of young children aged three to five, with more of them entering the ICDS (Anganwadi) system instead of other forms of pre-school and school provision. Specifically, the report stated that 66.8% of three-year-olds were enrolled in Anganwadi Centers in 2022, compared to 57.1% in 2018 and among 4-year-olds, Anganwadi enrollment increased from 50.5% in 2018 to 61.2% in 2022.
Moreover, the report mentioned that there were concerns that economic stress might lead to children dropping out of school, but this did not happen, instead, the already low proportion of not-enrolled children in the six to 14 age group has halved from 2.8% to 1.6% over four years. It added that going to school is now a habit for every child.
As per ASER 2022, the proportion of not currently enrolled six-14-year-old children is almost half of what was observed in 2018 and the lowest we have seen in the decade since the Right to Education Act came into effect. "Even more heartening is that we see a secular decline in the proportion of children not currently enrolled in the 15-16 age group, the age group considered most at risk for dropping out. In 2010, the proportion of 15-16 year-olds who were out of school was 16.1 pc," it said.
Giving more details, the report added that "Driven by the government's push to universalise secondary education, this number has been steadily declining and stood at 13.1 pc in 2018. The decline continued in 2020 to 9.9 pc and this proportion stands at 7.5 pc in 2022. Private school enrollment had been rising for almost a decade. In 2018, 30.9 pc children were enrolled in private schools. This has come down to 25.1 pc in 2022. This 5.8 percentage point decrease amounts to a sudden 19 per cent drop in private school enrollment, and an 11 per cent increase in rural government school enrollment," it said, as stated in a report by PTI.
Moreover, it noted that the state school systems have absorbed these 8 million or more children without a fuss. If it was not for the widespread infrastructure of the state school systems, millions of children leaving private schools would have been left without schools. "The government school enrolment in this age group saw a steady decline from 2006 to 2014 to record 64.9 pc and remained around that till 2018. In 2018 it increased to 65.6 pc and thereafter reached 72.9 pc in 2022. This is visible in all States/ UTs in the country," it said.
What is ASER? It is a nationwide, citizen-led household survey that provides a snapshot of children's schooling and learning in rural India. In 2005, the first ASER was conducted and repeated annually for 10 years. ASER 2022 is the first field-based "basic" nationwide ASER after a gap of four years. It comes at a time when children are back in school after an extended period of school closure given the pandemic. The latest study surveyed a total of 19,060 villages in rural India, which include 3,74,544 households and 6,99,597 children in the age group 3 to 16, as stated in a report by PTI.