2 May 2009

India's Report Card: ASER 2008 - I

Summary of effort and methodology.

Since 2005, Pratham, an NGO in India has been facilitating the publication of Annual Status of Education Report (ASER, असर in hindi). This independent survey tries to capture the current status of education of India's rural children. The sheer size of their enterprise is impressive. This year alone 16,198 villages were covered with a total sampling of about 700,000 children between the ages of 3 - 16 all across the country. A complete provisional report can be found here. It's 208 pages long and crammed with information that every education and policy statistician would love to analyze.

The parameters looked at are very simple - can our children read and do math? An overly simplified gist of the testing procedure is this: for reading they progress from alphabets, to 2 letter words, sentences and finally comprehension; for math, it starts with identification of digits, higher numbers and then performing mathematical functions such as subtraction, multiplication and division of progressively larger numbers.

Standardized tests have been created for each state so that children are evaluated in the language they are taught. For a flow chart on the testing procedure please go to page 41 of the report. Sample tests and volunteer sheets have been included in the Appendix. From what I can gather the ASER report mobilizes a large number of volunteers who are provided with a 4 day training and one day refresher before they are sent out to the field. From their acknowledgment it is clear that this mobilization has been across various sectors of the society which in itself is something to be proud of, I think. For the sheer scale of this effort, a standardized effort is key for data generation and, this year they have gone back to re-check 2-4 villages in each district to make sure the data was captured correctly.

ASER has consistently followed the same questioning methodology for the past 3 reports so it's interesting to compare the trends across states and districts. Although, they do caution against reading trends across the years in a single district due to their sampling methodology. Each year they also include a new parameter that can further give insight into the lives of our rural children. In ASER 2007 there was a section on testing children's English language skills while in ASER 2008 they have looked at infrastructure available in the village and household of the child such as TV, phone, electricity, PDS, Post Office etc. It adds an invaluable economic layer on top of the education metrics they present.

ASER 2008 has covered 564 districts out of the total 583. In each district 600 households ( 20 households in 30 villages) were randomly selected. They predict this yields more than 1,000 children per district. The villages themselves are randomly selected: 10 have been retained from 06, 10 from 07 and 10 new have been added. Children are tested on Sunday, when they are expected to be at home. Their survey methodology is quite interesting and a more detailed explanation can be found in the report itself.

To view a break up of numbers statewise and look at prettily colored pictures of India based on educational metrics please visit the ASER centre. In my next post I will present a data table with combined rankings for the results in 2008.

Please note that this effort is my own humble initiative to understand the state of our education and is not a rigorous academic discussion on either the methodology or outcome. I do not have the right training to pontificate on either; but, I do have the curiousity to find out how our children are doing!

No comments:

Post a Comment