The Centre’s National Achievement Survey (NAS) was held in schools across the country on Friday to assess comprehension and numerical skills of children in classes 3, 5, 8 and 10 – a mammoth exercise replete with signs of learning loss caused by coronavirus-induced disruptions, especially among children in lower grades.
As per initial estimates from 24 states and Union Territories, the survey, expected to cover 38 lakh students, saw participation of nearly 96% of sampled schools, and 92% of the targeted sample students, the Ministry of Education said in a statement.
Sources said attendance was relatively low among students of primary grades (classes 3 and 5) in some states. In Delhi, for instance, about 77% and 78% of the sample in classes 3 and 5, respectively, took the test, while it was 86% and 90% for classes 8 and 10, respectively.
In Tamil Nadu, which has been hit by heavy rain, schools in 16 of 38 districts were unable to participate in the survey, an official at CBSE’s regional office told The Indian Express. In Andhra Pradesh, three districts could not participate due to the rain, the official said.
During proceedings of the survey, teachers across states noticed children, particularly those of grades 3 and 5, struggling to make sense of the questions, and filling the OMR sheets. Field investigators (FIs), numbering around 1.82 lakh and selected by CBSE, helped them fill the sheets in such cases, especially keeping in mind that for many class 3 students it was their first day in school in nearly two years.
“We had online classes during the pandemic but not even 50% of the class would join in. Today we are getting the outcome,” said Asiya Mushrif, principal in-charge of a school in Pune. “Many children cannot read the questions; we are reading it out to them. They can answer the questions after we read, maybe they have got used to that since we had oral exams only so far.” Also, Mushrif said, the pace of writing is “gone (and) many are struggling to write”.
At Delhi’s Hari Vidya Bhavan, a testing centre for all four grades, the test for grades 3 and 5 had to be extended by 30 minutes. Although FIs and Department of Education representatives had briefed students on the test, and the use of the sheets, before the exam started, teachers had to handhold the younger children. Teachers of the school were also present in the classroom.
“Ma’am had to show me how to fill circles at the start. I also got confused because I couldn’t understand some questions – ma’am explained them, but I couldn’t understand what I had to do in one,” said Disha Arya, 8, a class 3 student. Primary grade teachers said comprehending the questions was a challenge for the children, which is why teachers had to explain what they had to do.
In West Bengal, students were welcomed with flowers and crayons at a few schools. Scottish Church Collegiate School principal Bivash Saniel told The Indian Express, “Almost all students came to school, but since it was a sample survey only 30 from each class were selected through a lottery system for the test. The rest had to be sent back. It was difficult for us because students were so eager to appear.”
In Gujarat, although schools are on Diwali break till November 21, government teachers were made responsible to ensure 100% attendance for schools selected in sampling. “With everyone on vacation, I have personally fetched children from as far as 50 km from Ahmedabad, assuring parents of their safety. We have been asked to get 100% students, no matter what,” a municipal school teacher in Ahmedabad said.
In Bihar, students and parents said Chhath Puja celebrations affected the participation rate. However, CBSE’s regional officer (Patna) Jagadish Barman said attendance was healthy, even among students of classes 3 and 5. Nodal officer Odisha Sanat Mohanty said attendance was over 80% across 5,563 schools selected for NAS.
The last NAS was held on November 13, 2017. The results will be prepared in the form of district report cards, state/UT reports, while one will be prepared at the national level, the Centre said.
-INPUTS FROM Aishwarya Mohanty in Odisha, Santosh Singh in Bihar and Sweety Mishra In West Bengal