By Ranajit Bhattacharyya
General Manager, ASER Centre
Last year, around mid-January, I got a call from a government official asking for an ASER 2015 report to be sent to his office. A few others, mostly journalists, also called to enquire about the release date of the report. Similar instances were also reported by many of my colleagues from the states. When told that there was no ASER 2015, there was a near unanimous groan, ‘oh! but why not?’
When we started doing ASER in 2005, most of us did not know whether ASER would be done every year, though the ‘A’ of ASER connotes ‘Annual’, leave alone for how long. Similarly, we could not gauge the extent of the effect that ASER findings would have on both education policy and practice. The entire ASER cycle is designed in such a manner that from start of the survey to reporting it takes no more than 100 days. ASER also attempts to capture the learning levels of children half way through an academic year. The release in January, each year, also has a significance – to provide valuable inputs on the status of rural primary education to education planners, who finalise the following year’s state plans in February each year.
Many state governments have undertaken remedial programmes taking cognisance of the ASER findings. Most importantly ASER has succeeded in bringing issues of learning to the centre of all deliberations, which earlier gravitated towards just inputs.
Over the last 12 years the interest in ASER reports has increased manifold. The media has played an important role in disseminating ASER findings and their interest has peaked since 2009. Most dailies in India, both English and vernacular press, promptly report the key findings of the latest ASER. The electronic media too, has started taking a strong interest in ASER findings. Many talk shows, on the state of education, ensue immediately after the release. An interesting trend is that tutorial portals that cater to aspiring civil servants, have started carrying in-depth analysis of ASER findings – evidently, questions related to ASER have started featuring in the ‘general studies’ paper! The press has played a very important role in disseminating ASER findings.
ASER press coverage
Every year, around mid-January, we release the ASER report, last year was an exception when we decided to take a break in 2015. ASER 2016 will be released on January 18, 2017 in New Delhi.