New ASER Data on COVID Learning Loss

ASER Centre recently released results from a survey of learning levels in Karnataka conducted earlier this year. To my knowledge this is the first rigorous, sample-based survey of learning levels in India during COVID which is representative of a larger population. (Earlier surveys like this one and this one were not representative of larger populations and used teacher or parent recall to assess changes in learning levels.) The results are shocking, especially for the earlier grades. The figure below shows the share of standard 3, 5, and 8 students in Karnataka able to read a standard 2 level text for several previous ASER rounds and the current survey. The results for the math assessment show similar declines.

To put these declines in perspective, prior to COVID Karnataka ranked right in the middle of Indian states in terms of the share of std 5 students who could read a std 2 text. By contrast, Karnataka std 5 students now do about as poorly as std 5 students in MP, one of the worst performing states, prior to COVID.

Unfortunately, the situation is likely even worse in other states. ASER 2020 wave 1 assessed access to remote learning devices and remote learning study habits in each Indian state. According to that survey, Karnataka students had higher access to, and use of, remote learning across the board but were particularly more likely to have received learning materials in the previous week. (See table below with selected comparison metrics.)

Figure Karnataka India Difference
% enrolled children in hh with smartphone 68.6 61.8 6.8
% enrolled children in hh with TV 82.8 60.8 22.0
% std 3-5 students with textbooks at home 92.3 81.4 10.9
% std 3-5 students who receive study help from family members 75.0 77.3 -2.3
% std 3-5 who received learning materials in previous week 75.0 35.8 39.2
% std 3-5 who watched TV classes in previous week 26.7 19.7 7.0
% std 3-5 who watched video classes in previous week 29.3 19.7 9.6
% std 3-5 who read textbook in previous week 69.2 60.2 9.0
% std 3-5 who used worksheet in previous week 48.7 35.5 13.2