My Journey of ASER 2012

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After completing my Masters in Economics from Doon University, I just got the opportunity to work with ASER i.e. Annual Status of Education Report 2012, a national level annual report which shows educational status of children in the rural villages of India. There were two more reasons of being happy besides getting an employment after completing the degree. The one reason is that I wanted to work in an educational area while the other was that I love to travel and ASER gives you this chance. In fact in just those few months I travelled so much, sometimes I used to feel that our office runs from the buses of Haryana Roadways.

RTE 6pager-480There are so many memories with me while working for ASER. During the ASER we had to travel a lot, if I recall I had to travel through bus at least 8-9 hours a day on an average and it happened for months. One day I started my journey around 6 AM in the morning from Kurukshetra to talk with one of our partner in Sirsa and after that I was to come Delhi and I reached at 11.30 in the night. That day I spent around 17-18 hours under the roof of moving bus. Today it seems unbelievable but it was real and feels amazing today. I must thank Haryana roadways for helping me in doing my duty and I can’t forget those tickets we had to collect to paste in our daily activity logs. The best part of travelling was that I got the chance to travel on each vehicle which I could get and these were bike, auto, bus, train, tractor and even bullock cart and the roof of bus also. Among all memorable experiences the best experience was to visit rural villages and schools and there meet and talk to children studying in primary classes which used to remember me my childhood school days.

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During my work I also experienced lot of things regarding our education system, our society and social thoughts going on in the minds of people. Here I am sharing some of them. In ASER we had to make a partner in each district which can be any organization or college to provide volunteers (mostly college students) to conduct survey in villages. Our master trainers used to give training to the volunteers provided by our partner. After the training volunteers do survey in their respected villages and submit their survey data to our trainers. And my work was to finalize partner and monitor all the process and to make sure that the data and survey quality is perfect.

I was in Yamunanagar district of Haryana, and there was a private college partner for our survey. It was my first district where I was to conduct survey. I was talking to one of the NSS coordinator of the college who was a teacher in the college but he was other than previous one with whom I finalized this college for our partner. I was telling him that how our survey help volunteers to understand the educational status in the rural areas. Suddenly I heard a voice of him for me, “Sir, they are habitual of walking bare foot, don’t try to wear them adidas and reebok shoes”. He was talking about our volunteers, the students of the college who were about to do surveys in villages for our report. He meant that students of his college were not suitable for our survey. I was just stunned hearing the thought of a teacher in this manner about his students but my sudden reply was, “I don’t really know about their habits but as much I know they have the right to walk with sleepers”. I meant that no one has the right to raise question on ability as well as the willingness of someone. But we can understand if the mentality of a teacher is like this for his own students then what would have been he teaching and what the students would learn from him.

Once I was doing the survey in a village of Hissar district. Sometimes due to some reasons we had to survey villages ourselves too. In ASER survey, we used to collect educational information of children, their household information and test children in Hindi, English and Mathematics to assess their educational status. I went to one household and started taking the information about the household and education of children from one of the member of that house. In that small house two families were living together. I asked about the number of children, that person told me that there were five children three boys and two girls. Now I asked that which type of school they attend govt. or private? He replied that three boys and one girl go to private school but one girl who was eldest among them goes to govt. school. Just for my curiosity I asked why only that girl goes to govt. school. He said, “This girl study in higher class and you know the fee of higher classes in private school is very high and now we cannot afford the fee of private school of all children and what will she do after school education”. Though, he was little disappointed for her which seemed me that if he could he would also send her in private school. And I asked that what you think about government schools. He said, “Rehne do saab, day has gone years ago when there were education in government schools. Today government schools are opened just for name. Govt. teachers don’t want to teach, they just come to take their salary. Government does not want to teach the children of poor people. If government could provide a better education in govt. schools, the burden could have been reduced from the shoulders of poor like us”. After that I was taking test of children. One boy studying in third standard could not read our English tool properly and then he could not do a division problem. Unexpectedly that person who was talking with me slapped the boy and said, “Can’t you solve these questions, what do you learn in your school?”. I was surprised seeing this. To make atmosphere cool I said to the person, “Don’t do like this, he will learn in future. You can’t teach children with this strategy”. He said, “Saab, we are labors even then we spend half of our income on the education of children and send them in private schools with this belief that they would learn better but if he is not able to do this simple test then what is the benefit of sending him in expensive private school?”. The experience of that house forced me to realize that how education of the children is a heavy economic burden for low and middle level income households although government education is free. Outside of that house I was thinking that no doubt if the government schools provide better education the economic burden of poor and low income families could have been reduced much enough.

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      I was in a village Bhera of Bhiwani district, I was talking with Sarpanch of the village in his house. He became happy listening that this type of educational survey is going to conduct in his village. He was enthusiastic to know the level of education of children of his village. The way he was talking to me about education I could understand that he is really concerned about the education of the children of his village. His concern for education of children I presumed that level of education of children in this village may be relatively better. I told him how survey is conducted in villages and showed him our testing tool which we use to assess children’s educational level. We had just finished our tea; the Sarpanch forced me to go to the govt. primary school nearby his house and asked me to take test of children in the school. I tried to make understand him that we don’t test children in the school. But he didn’t listen my argument and said, “Don’t worry about it, nothing happens”. He started testing children himself which was expressing his interest to know educational level of children. Then I also had to start test some of the children of different classes in the school though I didn’t record them as our survey. But I was surprised that children were coming themselves to give test, they were keen to read our testing tools and they were so good in education. They were easily reading our Hindi and English tools, even they were fighting with each other for reading them and they were comfortable to do our Mathematics tools. I was right what I thought at the house of Sarpanch about the level of education of children in village.

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    I was in another village named Bakhtawarpura of Bhiwani district at the border of Rajasthan with my companion. At the time of doing survey in the village we witnessed neat and clean environment there and cleanliness of village. We were wondered watching the cleanness of the village. In that village roads were clean and drains were free from filth and dirt. That beautiful environment and management of that village created a picture of village which was contrary of other villages we used to have in our mind. I had visited numbers of villages till then but this village was different from them. When we were surveying village a cloth-seller was also there in village to sell clothes. Cloth seller met with us and he also talked about the clean surrounding of that village. He didn’t stop himself and appraised to one villager that his village is beautiful, clean and well managed. When we were leaving the village, a young boy aged around 24 years was also walking on the road towards outside the village. We started talking with that guy and told about cleanness and beauty of his village. I said that your village is totally different from other villages how do you people make it? He replied, “It is just the result of ours union of young boys”. He told us that they formed a union of young boys in the village. The name of their union was something like ‘Naujawan Sangh’. He further said, “We call a meeting of boys in last week of every month and discuss about the things regarding our village. On one day of that week we also do works related to cleaning of the village”. But these days their union is in weak condition because most of the members of union are out of village due to employment related issues, in the last he told. We have finished our talk and we were now at bus-stop outside the village and after few minutes he caught his bus. In his talk he showed me the brush which painted the picture of village, I could form in my mind and that brush was their young boys’ union. First time I felt in real world with my own experience that if people are unite (for good cause), the society leads to better position.

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In whole journey of ASER I found that society is complex in nature. I observed different colors and tones of society. Today people are aware with the power of education. Parents know how a better education of their children can benefit their children in future. That is the reason people accept to send their children in private schools with the hope that they would get better rather than govt. schools. Even though they have to bear the high fee in private schools but not ready to send their children in govt. schools where they don’t have to pay anything. But as the ASER report says itself that the difference of learning level between government and private school children is not much wide. The trend shows, though the enrolment of children in private schools is increasing but the learning level of children is slipping down continuously. Society has made perception that just the word ‘private’ written on the board painted in front of the schools can provide their children a better education. The result of this perception is that this has led to heavy economic burden on the middle and low income society with the fact that to get the right and meaningful education for free is their constitutional right. As I think, most important pillar of the education is teacher. If teacher is concerned about the education and learning of his students then students would definitely learn. What would students learn if the teacher would be like one who met me in Yamunanagar district? ASER report depicts that the facilities in government schools are growing better and government schemes for schools are doing better work. In most govt. schools students are getting mid-day meal properly. The number of schools having facilities like classrooms, playground, toilets etc. is on increasing trend. Even then the trend of learning level of children is decreasing. Now the question arises why? Can facilities deliver better education level? Can a board written with ‘private’ and high fee provide good education? The answer would be simple no. It is the teacher who can help to change the trend. Teachers have to be more concerned about the education of their students. Education is the issue of social discussion and society itself is another pillar of education. If society is concerned with the education and learning level of children, it would also result in the performance of children. Just like the children of that village where the Sarpanch was concerned for the education of children of his village. Where he himself used our testing tool to assess children’s learning level and we found children were relatively better. Society can handle its matters, it just needs social awareness among people like the instance I saw in Bakhtawarpura village where the ‘Naujawan Sangh’ of young boys used to clean the village and think about their village.

In my ASER journey I found that ‘It is the society only which can change the society’.




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