Annual Status of Education Report (Rural) 2019: 'Early Years'


The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) is a nationwide household survey of children’s schooling and learning, conducted yearly since 2005. Children aged 3-16 are surveyed on their enrolment status in schools, and those aged 5-16 are assessed on their ability to read simple text and do basic arithmetic. Since 2016, ASER has been following an alternate year cycle – the main report is released every two years with the intervening years taking up specific topics of interest.

A child’s early years are the most crucial for brain development. It is important to highlight their needs during this critical period and address them through policy measures. Hence, ASER 2019 focuses on children aged 4-8, examining their schooling status and a range of developmental indicators. These indicators cross four domains: cognitive development, early language, early numeracy, as well as social and emotional development. The surveyed children were assessed through a set of tasks relevant to each domain.

The sample-based survey for ASER 2019 was coordinated by Mumbai-based non-governmental organisation Pratham, and carried out by representatives of NGOs, colleges, universities, district-level educational institutes and teacher training institutes, among other entities. It was conducted in 26 districts across 24 states in India, covering a total of 1,514 villages, 30,425 households and 36,930 children.

This 196-page report is divided into 12 chapters: Commentary (chapter 1); About ASER 2019 'Early Years' (chapter 2); ASER 2019 'Early Years' – National picture (chapter 3); All districts (chapter 4); Andhra Pradesh: Srikakulam, Assam: Kamrup (Rural), Bihar: Nalanda, Chhattisgarh: Mahasamund (chapter 5); Gujarat: Mehsana, Haryana: Hisar, Himachal Pradesh: Kangra, Jharkhand: Ramgarh (chapter 6); Karnataka: Chamarajanagar, Kerala: Thrissur, Madhya Pradesh: Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh: Satna, Maharashtra: Nagpur (chapter 7); Manipur: Bishnupur, Meghalaya: East Khasi Hills, Nagaland: Dimapur, Odisha: Khordha (chapter 8); Punjab: Bathinda, Rajasthan: Ajmer, Tamil Nadu: Vellore, Telangana: Karimnagar (chapter 9); Tripura: South District, Uttar Pradesh: Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh: Varanasi, Uttarakhand: Dehradun, West Bengal: Bankura (chapter 10); ASER 2019 'Early Years' – Survey process documents (chapter 11) and ASER 2019 'Early Years' – Annexures (chapter 12).


  1. More than 90 per cent of the surveyed children were enrolled in some type of pre-school or school – government or private. The rate increases with the age of the child, with 99.5 per cent of eight-year-olds enrolled in school.

  2. Majority of girls are enrolled in government schools, while boys are more often sent to private institutions. This gap increases with age. About 56.8 per cent of girls aged 4-5 years went to government institutions whereas 50.4 per cent of boys attended private schools. Among seven- and eight-year-olds, 61.1 per cent of girls when to government and  52.1 per cent of boys went to private schools.

  3. The Right to Education Act, 2009, mandates that children should enter Class 1 at age six – the report notes. However, many states allow entry at an earlier stage. This puts a significant number of children at a learning disadvantage, as there is a clear progression in learning with age. For example, at age five, 21.6 per cent of the surveyed children were already in Class 1, and at age six, 18.7 per cent were in Class 2 or higher.

  4. Curriculum expectations for those of the same age differ widely by state and type of school. In Kerala’s Thrissur district, 89.9 per cent of five-year-olds were in a pre-primary and the rest were in Class 1. At the same time, in Madhya Pradesh’s Satna district, 47.7 per cent of age five kids were in pre-school, 40.5 per cent in Class 1, and 4.1 per cent in Class 2.

  5. Learning outcomes vary significantly across age, state and type of school. At the pre-primary stage, of all four-year-olds enrolled in government pre-schools, only one in three could complete a four-piece puzzle. Less than half of age five children could do the same.

  6. About 83.8 per cent of Class 1 children could not read a text suitable for their grade, and 25.9 per cent could not finish a single-digit number recognition task. Even among Class 3 students, 49.2 per cent could not read Class 1-level text and 27.8 per cent were unable to recognise two-digit numbers.

  7. A child’s age plays a key role in their performance in tasks related to cognitive development, early language, early numeracy as well as social and emotional learning. Older children tend to do better in all tasks. Among Class 1 students,  5.7 per cent of those aged 4-5 could read texts suitable for their grade, whereas the rate was 12.7 per cent for six-year-olds and 31.6 per cent for eight-year-olds.

  8. Educated mothers tend to positively influence the learning outcomes of their children. Among Class 1 students, only 14.7 per cent of kids whose mothers did not go to school could read basic words, whereas this number was 49.3 per cent for those whose mothers studied till Class 11 or higher. Similarly, 53.1 per cent of Class 3 kids whose mothers did not attend school could do number recognition tasks – compared to 91.8 per cent of kids whose mothers were higher secondary educated.

  9. Children whose mothers are educated are more likely to attend private schools. Private school students also tend to display greater proficiency in early literacy and numeracy tasks than others. (This may be due, in part, to the higher proportion of older children in the same class cohort in private schools, as compared to government schools).

  10. Play-based activities that build memory, reasoning and problem-solving strengthen a child’s cognitive skills. ASER 2019 data shows a clear relationship between children’s performance in cognitive tasks – such as sorting and pattern recognition – and early literacy and numeracy, across ages. For example, at age four, 62.6 per cent of children who could finish 2-3 cognitive tasks correctly could also do a picture description task. Among kids that accomplished fewer cognitive tasks, only 34.8 per cent completed the description activity. 

  11. Similarly, among Class 3 students, 63.2 per cent of those who did all three cognitive tasks correctly were able to read Class 1-level texts. Of children who were able to do one or none of the cognitive tasks correctly, only 19.9 per cent could read at the same level.

    Focus and Factoids by Kalpana Sitaraman.


ASER Centre


ASER Centre, New Delhi


14 Jan, 2020