This is believed to be one of the biggest surveys undertaken by any government or private agency in the country thus far.
The sample size of the National Achievement Survey
(NAS) has always remained between 100,000 and 200,000 since it was launched in 2001-02.
The government has asked the NCERT to conduct the assessment in every district of the country, unlike in the past surveys, when districts were randomly selected. In the current survey, around 4,500 students from 50 schools will be selected for testing in each district. The cost of the exercise is estimated to be around Rs 30 crore.
Another major change this year is that the survey will be completed in the current academic session itself. To quicken the process, the government would ask the surveyors to transfer the answers provided by the students on OMR sheets and scan them at the district level. The results will be fed into software. Earlier the answer sheets were dispatched to the NCERT for evaluation. The government said a pilot had been done in Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, and Manipur.
The NCERT is expected to launch the NAS in September-October and prepare its report by December. “This would help both the central and the state governments and also non-profit organisations to design and tweak their policies for timely interventions,” said Anil Swarup, secretary, school education and literacy, MHRD.
Experts, including government officials, have questioned the quality of education being imparted in government schools. The results of the last NAS — conducted in 2012-13 for 34 states, covering 104,374 students in 298 districts, and for Class 3 students — suggest that around 64 per cent students correctly answered on language items (listening comprehension, reading comprehension, and word recognition) and 66 per cent provided correct answers to questions on mathematics (addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc.).
Students of Chhattisgarh, Bihar, and Jharkhand scored less than the national average whereas students from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka had performed better.
On a scale of 0 to 500, the average score on language was 257. Similarly, for mathematics it was 252.
Officials at the NCERT say this year they would test three classes at once, unlike in the previous NAS surveys. The learning outcome of each student will be linked to his or her Aadhaar, a 12-digit unique identification number, for monitoring. The government has launched an exercise to cover all students in government schools under the Aadhaar ambit. “Every student will have an Aadhaar by August-end. Linking the results of learning outcomes with Aadhaar will help us avoid collection of a student’s background information in future,” the NCERT official said.
The government wants to expand the scope of the NAS. The officials say they would focus on school-based learning outcomes. “This would tell us which government schools are providing better education in a district. More emphasis would be given to those schools which exhibit poor results,” the official said.
The government is working on a digital system to collect information on government schools, government teachers, and students. For instance, it is collecting information such as the geographic location of a school, the number of classrooms, the number of students, their background, the qualifications of teachers, and their daily attendance. It will capture the academic performance of each student in every class. Through the child-tracking system, the government would know if the student has taken admission in another school in another state, or whether he has dropped out.