Every year since 2005, ASER has reported on children’s schooling status and their ability to do basic reading and arithmetic tasks. Studies have highlighted the fact that although almost all children are enrolled in school, many are not acquiring foundational skills like reading and basic arithmetic that can help them progress in school and in life.
Since 2006, ASER has focused on the age group 5 to 16. Near-universal enrolment and automatic promotion through the elementary stage have resulted in more and more children successfully completing elementary schooling. This 2017 report focuses on youth aged 14 to 18 and who have moved just beyond elementary school age. It looks ‘beyond basics’ and explores a wider set of domains.
What information did ASER 2017 collect?
As with previous reports, ASER 2017 was a sample based household survey. Collected information from sampled 14 to 18 year olds included:
- Activity: What are young people currently doing? Are they enrolled in secondary school or in a technical college? Are they working?
- Ability: Do young people have basic foundational skills? Can they apply these skills to do tasks they do on a daily basis? These tasks could be things like counting money, making a budget or calculating discounts. 
- Awareness and exposure: How familiar are youth with financial and digital instruments. What do youth report in terms of their exposure to media?
- Aspirations: What do these young people want to become?
Some key findings
- Overall, 86% of youth in the 14-18 age group are still within the formal education system, either in school or in college. Only 14% are not currently enrolled in any form of formal education.
- The enrolment gap between males and females in the formal education system increases with age. There is hardly any difference between boys’ and girls’ enrolment at age 14; but at age 18, 32% females are not enrolled as compared to 28% males.
- A substantial proportion of youth in the 14-18 age group are working (42%), regardless of whether they are enrolled in formal education or not. Of those who work, 79% work in agriculture – almost all on their own family’s farm. More than three quarters of all youth do household chores daily – 77 % of males and 89% of females.
- About 25% of this age group still cannot read basic text fluently in their own language.
- More than half struggle with division. Only 43% are able to do such problems correctly.
- 53% of all 14 year-olds in the sample can read English sentences. For 18 year-old youth, this figure is closer to 60%. Of those who can read English sentences, 79% can say the meaning of the sentence.
- Even among youth in this age group who have completed eight years of schooling, a significant proportion still lack foundational skills like reading and math.
- Learning deficits seen in elementary school in previous years seem to carry forward as young people go from being adolescents to young adults.
- 76% of surveyed youth could count money correctly. For those who have basic arithmetic skills , the figure was close to 90%. (This task involves simple addition.)
- 56% could add weights correctly in kilograms. For those who have basic math skills, the figure is 76%. (This task involves addition and conversion from grams to kilograms.)
- Telling time is a common daily activity. For the easy task (hour), 83% got it correct. But for the slightly harder task (hour and minutes) a little less than 60% got it right.
- 86% of youth could calculate the length of an object if it was placed at the ‘0’ mark on the ruler. But when the object (show pencil and scale) was placed elsewhere on the ruler, only 40% could give the right answer.
- Of those who have currently completed 8 years of schooling or are currently enrolled in school or college, about 58% can read and follow instructions. But only 22% of those who are currently not enrolled can do so.
- 86% of the young people could recognize India on a map, 64% knew the capital of the country.
Awareness and Aspirations
- Mobile phone usage is widespread in the 14-18 age group. 73% of the young people had used a mobile phone within the last week. While only 12% of males had never used a mobile phone, this number for females is much higher at 22%.
- Mobile usage rises significantly with age. Among 14 year-olds, 64% had used a mobile phone in the last week. That figure for 18 year-olds is 82%.
- The use of internet and computers was much lower. 28% had used the internet and 26% had used computers in the last week, while 59% had never used a computer and 64% had never used internet.
- About 60% youth in the age group 14-18 years wanted to study beyond Std XII. This percentage is almost half (35%) among youth who could not read a Std II level text fluently.
- Professional aspirations are clearly gendered, with males aiming to join the army or police or becoming engineers and females showing preference for teaching or nursing careers.
- Almost a third of the youth who were currently not enrolled in an educational institution did not have a specific occupation that they aspired to. 40% youth did not have any role models for the profession they aspired to.
The report concludes: “Unless we ensure that our young people reach adulthood with the knowledge, skills, and opportunities they need to help themselves, their families, and their communities move forward, India's much awaited 'demographic dividend' will not materialize. Our interactions with youth in this age group suggest that as a country we urgently need to attend to their needs. ASER 2017 is an attempt to shine a spotlight on this situation and hopefully start a nation-wide discussion about the way forward.”
 India’s National Council of Educational Research and Training learning outcomes indicators highlight several concepts that youth leaving the Right to Education umbrella are expected to be familiar with.
 * Knows numbers till 100 and can do the four basic arithmetic operations