The Telegraph
Wednesday , July 16 , 2014
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Class III kids can multiply, can’t read

- National Achievement Survey shows lack of language skills as main learning block

Ranchi, July 15: Jharkhand’s third graders in state-run schools can tackle simple maths operations as well or in some cases better than the national average, but incomprehension and baffled looks define most young faces when asked to listen or read.

This is a surprising finding of National Achievement Survey (NAS) Class III report, made by the Union ministry of human resource development (HRD) in collaboration with NCERT and CBSE. The report, released earlier this year by the then UPA government’s Union HRD minister M. Pallam Raju, hinges on the abilities of schoolchildren of a grade that experts believe have the biggest number of dropouts. Copies have recently come to respective state governments, including Jharkhand, enabling education departments and NGOs to identify strengths and weaknesses and implement roadmaps for improvement.

In Jharkhand, the NAS survey covered 10 districts, 211 government primary schools and 2, 896 students.

As far as multiplication, addition, subtraction and division were concerned, the state’s third graders performed well. In addition and subtraction, Jharkhand’s children equalled the national average of 69 per cent and fared two notches better with 67 per cent. In multiplication, Jharkhand children were far more proficient than the national average, as 76 per cent of them could successfully multiply sums compared to just 63 per cent across India. In divisions, Jharkhand’s children equalled the national average of 57 per cent.

But if 59 per cent of third graders nationally can comprehend what they are reading, only 52 of Jharkhand counterparts can. This is in direct contract to the finding that 86 per cent of Jharkhand’s Class III children recognise words they read, which equals the national average.

The two percentages mean that most children of the state are literate by the time they reach Class III but around half of them don’t understand what they are reading. They can recognise words individually, but can’t make sense of sentences when the same words are strung together.

The NAS report has further highlighted that Jharkhand children had poor listening ability. So, if 65 per cent of children on an average in India listened in class, only 63 per cent did so in Jharkhand.

These findings cast a shadow on the heartening news that most children here could solve multiplication sums.

“If children don’t listen or learn to read at an early age, they won’t be able to understand basic concepts across all subjects. We are incorporating teaching-learning materials and play-way methods in classrooms but the performance of our students in understanding ability is below the national average,” said Ajay Kumar, principal of government primary school in Nagri. “We have to focus on storytelling and writing.”

Pratham, an organisation working in collaboration with state education department and Unicef, agreed with Kumar.

“Listening and reading comprehension, or language ability as a whole, are fundamental building blocks of learning. Students need to read even maths textbooks,” said Kumar Katyayani, state coordinator of Pratham.

Katyayani said a programme called Buniyaad Plus would be launched soon for students of government schools from Classes III to V to enable students enhance listening and reading skills. “Buniyaad Plus will take forward Buniyaad, launched last year for Classes I and II, which moreover showed significant improvement. Hopefully, Buniyaad Plus will bridge the gaps revealed in the NAS report.”

A programme under Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, Padhna Pakka was started in 2013 with technical support of Pratham and Unicef for Classes III to V in government schools to improve reading, listening and mathematics.

Director of state primary education department Jeetvahan Oraon said he found the NAS report extremely useful.

“In Class III, a child is young but old enough to start enjoying learning. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of students at this crucial juncture will help the state and NGOs active in the field of education address needs accurately,” Oraon said.