Karnataka’s Learning from National Achievement Survey 2021
23 June 2022
The release of the National Achievement Survey (NAS) 2021 results is an opportune moment for evaluating the status of education systems in the country. With over 1.18 lakh schools and 34 lakh students assessed under the survey, NAS 2021 provides comprehensive information with variables such as learning outcomes and perceptions of obstacles faced by teachers and students during the pandemic. However, despite celebrating the extensive exercise coordinated across many union and state departments, the results are alarming and call for immediate action to make up for learning losses.
As per the NAS, in Karnataka and across the country, learning levels tend to be lower among students in higher classes. In mathematics, students in Class 10 have performed 25 percentage points lower than those in Class 3. Similarly, learning outcomes in science declined by 23 percentage points. Students in Class 10 in the state have performed above the national average in social science, below average in mathematics, and have met the average in science.
The pandemic may appear as the most obvious cause of this learning decline, as visible when comparing student performances in Class 10 in 2017 and 2021, which have dropped by 44 score points in mathematics and 55 points in science. The pandemic’s impact includes obstacle-ridden migration to online (and later hybrid) learning and a lack of learning support in households. In Karnataka, a third of the students assessed in Class 10 did not have access to a digital device, and this statistic is even higher among students in Classes 3 and 5, implying that at least a third of the students in the state could not learn during school closures.
The data also presents unexplained anomalies with students in Class 8, where 73 per cent of students assessed did not have a digital device at home compared to 34 per cent in Class 10. In contrast to the average of 40 per cent students across other classes, 98 per cent of students in Class 8 reported facing ‘obstacles to learning during the pandemic.’
A closer look at the data on how Bengaluru has performed reveals that the suburban region performs the worst in Class 10. Only 25 per cent of students are proficient or at an advanced level in Bengaluru Rural, compared to 31 per cent in Bengaluru Urban North. This difference in performance that increases with progression in grades, calls for a greater focus on developing better schools in suburban neighbourhoods as the city continues to grow – a challenge not new to administrators.
While NAS 2021 provides us with an outlook on what challenges education system faces, the responsibility of why these persist and how to solve them rests with the state government. Now that states have evidence from randomised data at the district level, policymakers must focus on developing actionable tools to solve the myriad challenges. This includes ensuring pedagogical support for teachers and required technology and learning material at home for students to catch up with the loss. The state government must now dedicate financial and human resources to evaluate these findings further and strengthen reforms with renewed intentions of meeting higher standards.
Sidharth Santhosh is a Research Associate at Accountability Initiative.