Nearly 20% of rural school children had no textbooks due to COVID-19 impact, finds ASER survey

News: The Annual State of Education Report(ASER) survey has been released by the NGO Pratham.


  • ASER: It is a nationwide survey of rural education and learning outcomes in terms of reading and arithmetic skills that has been conducted by the NGO Pratham for the last 15 years.
  • ASER 2020: It was conducted in 26 states and four Union Territories.It is the first ever phone-based ASER survey and it was conducted in September 2020, the sixth month of national school closures.

Key Takeaways:

  • Enrolment: 
    • 5.3% of rural children aged 6-10 years had not yet enrolled in school this year in comparison to just 1.8% in 2018.
    • Among 15-16 year-olds, enrollment levels are slightly higher than in 2018.
    • However, there has been a clear shift in enrolment from private to government schools between 2018 and 2020.Reasons may include financial distress in households or permanent school shutdowns among the private schools.
  • Availability of Textbooks: 
    • About 20% of rural children have no textbooks at home due to Covid-19 impact.
  • Availability of Smartphones: 
    • Among enrolled children, 61.8% live in families that own at least one smartphone which was merely 36.5% in 2018.
    • About 11% of families bought a new phone after the lockdown of which 80% were smartphones.
  • Learning Activities:
    • Most children (70.2%) did some form of a learning activity through material shared by tutors or family members themselves, with or without regular input.
    • 11% had access to live online classes and 21% had videos or recorded classes with much higher levels in private schools.
    • However, during the week of the survey, about 1 in 3 rural children had done no learning activity at all.About 2 in 3 had no learning materials or activity given by their school that week and only one in ten had access to live online classes.
  • Parental Levels of Education: 
    • About 20% of children whose parents had less than five years of education got learning materials compared to 46% among parents who had studied beyond Class IX themselves.