90% students in urban private schools cannot read English: Survey

A survey reveals 9 out of 10 children in urban private schools cannot read in English correctly

A survey that assessed students across 20 states revealed that 9 in 10 children in urban private schools cannot read in English.

The report, ‘Where India reads 2017-18‘, covered 19,765 children of classes IV, V and VI in 106 private schools in cities, across 20 states, including Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Jammu and Kashmir among others.

The survey conducted by , an organisation that aims to address the reading and learning levels of school going students. This was reviewed by ().

The report suggests that problem lies within our households. “English is a second or even third language, in several Indian households and children speak in their mother tongue which is either Hindi or a regional language. However, at school they are expected to learn a language which is foreign to them, in a formal setting.”

Nikhil Saraf, co-founder, Stones2Milestones, said, “The test was conducted online to check comprehension, vocabulary and reading habits of students under their teachers‘ supervision. Some students answered a few test items in an unreasonably short time. Since it is unlikely for a small child to read and respond in snap of a finger, we did not count for scoring.”

“This also points to several behavioural peculiarities, which could include reading fatigue, non-seriousness and bad monitoring practices.”

The schools were provided with a list of suggestions and actions needed to improve reading levels based on the assessment report.

“The focus should be to make reading to the core as a learning focus rather than just restrict it to a namesake library period,” said , co-founder and CEO, Stones2Milestones.

Christel R Devadaswon, head, , , said, “A policy is required to improve the literacy rate and stakeholders should look at the perspective of children and their socioeconomic situations.”

Venita Kaul, ex-senior education specialist and chairperson of the Advisory Committee of Center for Early Childhood Education and Development (CECED), said, “I hope this report will initiate a discussion on challenges many Indian children face due to multi-lingual environment at home. It will sensitise parents, teachers and other stakeholders regarding the need to revisit classroom pedagogy for teaching reading to children. This is an urgent need in primary schools since children learn best in ways more developmentally and contextually appropriate for them. Once that is done, future assessments of children‘s reading skills will undoubtedly present a more favourable picture of their reading levels.”

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