The debate on education reforms has been severely hampered by the lack of reliable data, particularly on learning outcomes. The government data focuses on what government does—outlays and inputs into the school system. It tells us how much money has been allocated, how many boundaries walls and toilets are built, how many teachers are hired. It does not tell us what ultimately matters—that how much real learning is happening.
In the last couple of months, two studies of learning outcomes in India—the PISA study and the Quality Education Study by Wipro and Educational Initiatives—have exposed the abysmal learning levels in our schools, including some of our best schools. The 2011 ASER report has come at an opportune moment and helps crystallise our attention on the state of outcomes in education. As the 7th annual report, the latest ASER report not only provides us with a wealth of data about the current realities but also indicates the trends in enrolment as well as learning outcomes over the past 7 years.
One of the important trends visible from the ASER reports over the years is the fact that private school enrolment has been increasing inexorably across the country.