INTRODUCTION ASER stands for Annual Status of Education Report. This is an annual survey that aims to provide reliable annual estimates of children’s schooling status and basic learning levels for each state and rural district in India. ASER has been conducted every year since 2005 in almost all rural districts of India. ASER is the largest citizen-led survey… Read More »


ASER stands for Annual Status of Education Report. This is an annual survey that aims to provide reliable annual estimates of children’s schooling status and basic learning levels for each state and rural district in India. ASER has been conducted every year since 2005 in almost all rural districts of India. ASER is the largest citizen-led survey in India. It is also the only annual source of information on children’s learning outcomes available in India today.

The Annual Status of Education Report 2017 ‘Beyond Basics’ provides data on some important dimensions of the preparedness of youth, age 14-18, in rural India, with respect to their ability to lead productive lives as adults. Unlike most other large-scale learning assessments, ASER is a household-based rather than school-based survey. This design enables all children to be included – those who have never been to school or have dropped out, as well as those who are in government schools, private schools, religious schools or anywhere else. In each rural district, 30 villages are sampled.

In each village, 20 randomly selected households are surveyed. This process generates a total of 600 households per district or about 300,000 households for the country as a whole. Approximately 600,000 children in the age group 3-16 who are resident in these households are surveyed.

Information on schooling status is collected for all children in the age group 3-16 living in sampled households. Children in the age group 5-16 are tested in basic reading and basic arithmetic. The same test is administered to all children. The highest level of reading tested corresponds to what is expected in Standard 2. The highest level of arithmetic tested corresponds to what is expected in Standard 3 or 4, depending on the state.

Every year, some additional tests are also administered. These vary from year to year. In 2007, 2009, 2012 and 2014, for example, children were tested in basic English. In 2011 they were tested on their ability to solve everyday math problems soon.

In addition, basic household information is collected every year. In recent years this has included household size, parental education, and some information on household assets. In 2005, 2007, and every year since 2009, ASER has included a visit to one government primary school in each sampled village. Basic information is collected on school infrastructure, enrolment, attendance, teachers, and fund flows. Since 2010, ASER has tracked selected Right to Education (RTE) indicators as well.


The 2017 12th ASER report has made an attempt to look ‘beyond basics’ and explore a wider set of domains beyond foundational reading and arithmetic. Four domains were considered – activity, ability, awareness, and aspirations. As before, ASER 2017 too is a sample-based household survey, with tasks that are simple to administer and easy to understand. Like in previous years, this ASER too has been conducted with the participation of local partner organizations.

Since this is the first time that ASER is focusing on this age group, the assessment was carried out in one or two districts in almost all states of our country. ASER 2017 was carried out in a total of 28 districts of 24 states. About 2000 volunteers from 35 partner institutions, visited more than 25,000 households in 1641 villages, surveying more than 30,000 14 to 18-year olds in all.



Overall, 86% of youth in the 14-18 age group are still within the formal education system, either in school or in college.

  • More than half (54%) of all youth in this age group are enrolled in class X or below. Another 25% are either in class XI or XII, and 6% are enrolled in undergraduate and other degree courses. Only 14% are not currently enrolled in any form of formal education.
  • The enrollment gap between males and females in the formal education system increases with age. There is hardly any difference between boys’ and girls’ enrollment at age 14; but at age 18, 32% females are not enrolled as compared to 28% males.
  • A substantial proportion of youth in the 14-18 age group are working (42%), regardless of whether they are enrolled in formal education or not. Of those who work, 79% work in agriculture almost all on their own family’s farm. Also, more than three-quarters of all youth do household chores daily – 77 % of males and 89% of females.


Foundational skills

First, look at the current status of foundational skills for youth in the age group 14 to 18.

  • About 25% of this age group still cannot read basic text fluently in their own language.
  • More than half struggle with division (3 digits by 1 digit) problems. Only 43% are able to do such problems correctly.
  • 53% of all 14-year-olds in the sample can read English sentences. For 18-year-old youth, this figure is closer to 60%. Of those who can read English sentences, 79% can say the meaning of the sentence.

Interestingly, although reading ability in regional languages and in English seems to improve slightly with age (more 18-year-olds can read than 14-year olds), the same does not seem to apply to math. The proportion of youth who have not acquired basic math skills by age 14 is the same as that of 18-year olds.

Ability: Applying Basic Literacy and Numeracy Skills to Everyday Tasks

Volunteer’s in terms of daily tasks, picked some simple activities like counting money, knowing weights and telling time:

  • How much money is this? 76% of surveyed youth could count money correctly. For those who have basic arithmetic skills, the figure was close to 90%.
  • 56% could add weights correctly in kilograms. For those who have basic math skills, the figure is 76%.
  • Telling time is a common daily activity. For the easy task (hour), 83% got it correct. But for the slightly harder task (hour and minutes) a little less than 60% got it right.

What about common calculations that people often have to do? For ASER 2017, they picked a few such activities like measuring length with a ruler, calculating time, and applying the unitary method.

  • 86% of youth could calculate the length of an object if it was placed at the ‘0’ mark on the ruler. But when the object (show pencil and scale) was placed elsewhere on the ruler, only 40% could give the right answer
  • How many hours has this girl slept? Less than 40% of all sampled youth could calculate the right answer. Of those who could at least do division, about 55% could answer correctly.
  • How many tablets are needed to purify water in the big pot? Again about 50% of youth got this right. For those who could do division, the number is 70%.

A variety of tasks in daily life require reading and understanding written instructions.

Packages come with easy to use instructions that are quite straightforward. To assess whether youth are able to read and follow simple instructions, a volunteer asked them some questions based on this text.

  • In their sample, more than 75% of youth can read fluently. But only a little over half (53.5%) could read and answer at least 3 out 4 questions based on the written instructions on the ORS package.
    *Of those who have currently completed 8 years of schooling or are currently enrolled in school or college, about 58% can read and follow instructions. But only 22% of those who are currently not enrolled can do so.
  • Applying discounts: The third task consists of a picture of a T-shirt which is on sale with a 10% discount. The task is to figure out how much to pay after the discount. 38% of youth can do this computation correctly.
  • Calculating repayment: The fourth task is to decide which bank to take a loan from after comparing interest rates being offered by 3 banks and then computing what would be the repayment amount after a year. 71% youth chose the bank correctly but only 22% could calculate the correct repayment amount.

What about geography and general knowledge? A map of India was shown to each young person who was surveyed. They were asked a series of questions:

“This is a map of which country?” 86% answered India.

“What is the name of the capital of the country?” 64% answered correctly.

“Which state do you live in?” 79% answered correctly.

“Can you point to your state on the map?” 42% could do so.

Awareness & Aspirations

Each sampled youth was asked a series of questions to understand their access to media, financial institutions, and the digital world.

  • Mobile phone usage is widespread in the 14-18 age group. 73% of the young people had used a mobile phone within the last week.
  • However, significant gender differences are visible. While only 12% of males had never used a mobile phone, this number of females is much higher at 22%.
  • Mobile usage rises significantly with age. Among 14 year-olds, 64% had used a mobile phone in the last week. That figure for 18 year-olds is 82%.

But for these young people, the use of internet and computers were much lower. 28% had used the internet and 26% had used computers in the last week, while 59% had never used a computer and 64% had never used the internet.

  • Girls and young women have far lower access to computer and internet as compared to boys. While 49% of males have never used the internet, close to 76% of females have never done so.


This report shows the truth of our country. So many incentive and steps were taken by the government like Sarwa Siksha Abhiyan, Sab Padhe Sab Badhe etc but all seems to be useless.

People are expected to do many tasks requiring literacy and numeracy every day. Many young people of this age group are the first in their families ever to complete eight years of schooling. So, their ability to do basic things like calculations and make correct decisions is important not just for themselves but for the whole family. The overall patterns indicate that having basic foundational skills like reading and arithmetic are very helpful even for daily tasks and common calculations. However, not everyone who has these foundational skills can correctly complete these everyday tasks.

Similarly, although having completed at least 8 years of schooling is an advantage, not all youth who have done so can do these tasks. Females perform worse than males on almost all tasks. The report shows that substantial numbers of young people who have completed 8 years of schooling have difficulty applying their literacy and numeracy skills to real-world situations.

So, unless we ensure that our young people reach adulthood with the knowledge, skills, and opportunities they need to help themselves, their families, and their communities move forward, India’s much awaited ‘demographic dividend’ will not materialize. Our interactions with youth in this age group suggest that as a country we urgently need to attend to their needs. Youth is the most important asset for a country their future is the future of the Nation. So, the government must be compelled to provide basic education and skills.

– Subham Saurabh

Content Writer @ Legal Bites


  1. The twelfth Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2017: Beyond Basics) was released in New Delhi, 16 January 2018
  2. Highlights from ASER Report available at
  3. Uma Vishnu, The Indian Express,
  4. Renuka Bisht, The Times of India,
  5. Aniruddha Ghosh and Sujan Bandyopadhyay, The Wire,
Updated On 18 March 2020 4:49 AM GMT
Subham Saurabh

Subham Saurabh

Himachal Pradesh National Law University

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