It has been some years that I have been a part of annual ASER survey. We have been trying to bring the issue of “quality learning” to the core of the elementary education narrative. Over years the learning levels of children remain dismal. But in this journey I have met and interacted with lots of children in rural India. In this journey I have often experienced joy, wonder, energy and have felt reassured.
When you enter a village, you find children engrossed in various activities- helping their elders take care of their domestic animals, helping them fix a spade or some small machinery, taking care of their small shops and selling items or working in the fields. The common expression among children, I have observed, is of a certain discipline and effort.
A part of the ASER survey is to visit households and test children for their learning levels. Here you can actually get to know the children, who in schools are only identified by their names, roll number and may be behaviour. These children are often helping their mothers in household chores- cutting vegetables, washing utensils, taking care of their younger siblings. Their faces gleam with confidence, responsibility and congeniality.
And, then there are the adventurers or to say “high entropy individuals”, who will follow you wherever you go around the village, trying to gauge what you are doing and helping you out wherever possible. You can see these children chasing hens, goats, playing in the pond, slush, making some artifacts with whatever they can lay their hands on. For me, these children personify freedom, happiness, inquisitiveness.
Coming back to the question of low learning levels, I often wonder if we need to rethink the “learning spaces” we provide to our children through schools. Why is it that children don’t showcase these precious attributes in schools? Are there enough opportunities for them to showcase these qualities or is it even desired by the stakeholders?
Laying down a problem is easy, I guess. Will continue to try to find answers…
By Vikram Guria
Senior Associate, Assessment Unit, ASER Centre