Since 2005, the Annual Status of Education Reports (ASERs) have been doing a commendable job in shining light on the gnawing gap that exists between what children in schools should know, and what they actually know. The ASER (Rural) 2017 survey titled “Beyond Basics” is out in the public domain with its twin focus on assessment of basic literacy and numeracy skills of an older cohort (14–18 years), and also an examination of the activities that they were engaged in, abilities (application of foundational skills to everyday situations), aspirations (related to future roles/jobs) and general awareness (exposure to mobiles, computer, internet). Its findings are fairly predictable. Considering that elementary schoolchildren have been reported to have severe learning deficits, it would have been unrealistic to expect the older age group to show an upswing in learning.
The survey is confined to 30,000 youth from 28 rural districts in 24 states of India. However, the manner in which its findings are projected, interpreted and implications are drawn for policies, seems to be making sweeping judgments on the learning of all children in India.