Aditi Banerjee – Thoughts on ASER

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I have been working in the area of psychometric and educational assessment and research for some time. I joined ASER centre in 2014. Before coming here I had heard a lot about the ASER report. All over India where ever some sort of research activities are being carried out in the area of education and educational assessment people usually refer to the ASER report. It is not only a yearly rural household survey report but it has a lot more in store.

In my first year of ASER I was glad to know that 2014 was the successful 10th year of ASER survey. In 2015 it was a break year for ASER centre in which massive community mobilization and self realization campaign was run called the Lakhon mein ek campaign.

I was fortunate enough to work on ASER looking into its technical aspects. I learned about ASER by reading lots of available reports and speaking with several people. The more I got connected with people I found that ASER is not only a wave of system monitoring, not only an assessment tool, not only a citizen led assessment, not only child testing but it is a philosophy and way of thinking.

Year after year ASER survey has been conducted successfully with due courtesy to the organization’s team members, financial supporting stakeholders and unfamiliar citizens who share the camaraderie work as volunteers, trainers and surveyors. It is not only the hard work of people who are working here at ASER centre but a lot many more hands get into the rural soil of India to understand where are our children. What are they learning and what their learning outcome is? It is a subtle and time bound process as a part of a National level survey but it is a wave that runs pan rural India in this duration and questions the accountability of the system.  It is not only questioning the accountability of the system by the tax payers but rather it is a moral accountability that as human beings are we creating a strong foundation for our own generations to come and survive as the fittest in this competitive world.

2016 is my second year at ASER centre. This year I went to attend the National Workshop which is as mega as the whole ASER survey. After the training I was able to go for a day’s field pilot. The village name was Anth Gadhi Saura. On the way we realized that it is not just one village but it is a group of six villages that fall under one Sarpanch and are counted as six separate revenue villages. The Sarpanch was quite an enthusiastic person and was very pleased to host us as the leader of the villages. We surveyed the villages as per ASER training and spent the day in testing. We clicked some pictures as well to remember the day and the villages.

One of my favorite pictures was of a girl who was peeping out from the door of a house which was not one of our sampled households. She was quite curious to know what was going on in the village. Who have come to test the children? Why aren’t all the children being tested? Why isn’t she being tested?a

We finished the testing there close to the girl’s home and started to move ahead, leaving her standing at the door wondering why she wasn’t tested. Was it good for her that she was not tested or was it not good? She did not seem to be happy for not being tested neither did she seem to be unhappy.

Gazing at her while taking my last steps ahead of her vicinity I felt that we must definitely let the children also know why they are being tested. I understand that it would be an uphill task to explain to the child why he or she is being tested, but I strongly feel that children should also have some opportunity to understand why they are being taught and why they are being tested. As long as the purpose of doing something is not clear in their mind, even with immense amount of effort, still there would be a gap yet remaining to be covered by us.

Aditi Banerjee

Senior Research associate, ASER Centre