Over 70 per cent Class 3 kids in Karnataka can listen, recognise words and read passages with understanding and can perform basic mathematical operations.
This places the State above the national average, according to the National Achievement Survey (NAS) of the National Council for Educational Research and boTraining (NCERT).
The NAS, which was carried out in 189 government schools covering 3,128 students in 11 districts, says Karnataka students scored an average score of 267 in language comprehension and 265 in mathematics, significantly above the national averages of 257 and 252 respectively.
While 70 per cent kids could answer questions by listening to a passage, 88 per cent of them could recognise words by matching corresponding pictures and 65 per cent could read a passage and infer/evaluate from it.
Class 3 students showed their strengths in mathematics, as their skills were assessed in ten operations - addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, number placement, geometry, identifying patterns, measurement, money and data handling.
An impressive 86 per cent could conclude from given data, 74 per cent could identify patterns, 78 per cent could add and so on.
However, the NAS finds itself in stark contrast to the findings of the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), a household survey brought out by Pratham.
Pratham is a non-government (NGO) organisation working to provide quality education to the underprivileged children.
In January, ASER 2013 findings stated only 36.8 kids in Class 3 can read words and only 22.6 Class 3 children could read a Class 1 textbook. On the math front, it showed that only 3 per cent in Class 3 could divide, only 24.9 could subtract and 18.3 per cent could recognize numbers between 1 to 9.
The ASER 2013 covered 18,328 children (aged 5-16) in 15,506 households in 750 villages. Commenting on the comparison, Rukmini Banerji, director, ASER Centre, said: “Unless we know that a child can read and comprehend, giving them a pen-and-paper test is not the right thing to do.”
The ASER is a household survey for a specific reason, she said, “in order to cover children who are not going to school regularly.”
“I admit that quality in terms of accomplishment levels of children is a concern. But quality cannot be discussed in isolation. The ASER is more of a quantitative study,” said V P Niranjan Aradhya, fellow, Centre for Child and the Law, National Law School of India University (NLSIU).
“In a continuous and comprehensive evaluation process, I believe NCERT has given enough time and opportunity for a child to express learning abilities. With due respect to NGOs, they always approach issues negatively. The agenda is very clear to destabilize government schools. They have to join hands with the government to solve the issues they are highlighting,” Aradhya said.
Vasudeva Sharma, state convenor, Karnataka Child Rights Observatory, believes the ASER evolved as a response to quality concerns.
“Well, there will be conflicts. If you ask me, I will give weightage to ASER for the simple reason that the NAS is administered by NCERT teachers. Naturally, teachers will not admit that their own teaching has been poor. As it happened in Karnataka’s own Karnataka School Quality Assessment and Accreditation Council, it was teachers who helped students to better the results,” Sharma said.
ASER will be in its tenth year in 2015 and its makers are contemplating making some changes.
“We are considering changes not because we think what we are doing is wrong. We will perhaps shift focus on other parts of the system, such as transition from one class to another,” Banerji said.