Experts have frequently agreed that it is not the number of schools in which India lags, but in the quality of education imparted in them. Underlining this, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2017 unveiled some telling facts on Tuesday.
In Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's constituency, 82.4 per cent of youths aged 14-18 have enrolled in schools, but as many as 25 per cent of teenagers can't tell time from a watch, and a similar percentage can't identify India's capital Delhi on a map.
As for the dream of a digital India, Varanasi showed 62 per cent of the youth have never used a computer and 67.3 per cent have never used the internet. And 74 per cent of the youth used a mobile phone in the past week but only 40 per cent could do a simple division.
Reading between the lines, the report clearly shows that non-enrolment in schools is less of a problem than what kids actually learn there. Even in a supposedly backward district like Jammu and Kashmir's Budgam as many as 86.2 have enrolled. In Haryana's Sonipat the enrolment is 83.6 per cent, and in Uttarakhand's Dehradun it is 84.4 per cent.
The Annual Status of Education Report was carried out on youth in the age group that has moved beyond the elementary school age to secondary schools.
The survey was carried out in a total of 28 districts of 24 states across India. About 2000 volunteers visited more than 25,000 households in 1641 villages, surveying more than 30,000 14 to 18 year olds.
The survey declared that Udaipur with 64.3 per cent ranked highest among the districts surveyed where a high percentage of youth worked for 15 or more days last month, excluding household work. Varanasi ranked sixth on the list with 51.7 per cent of the youth working.
In terms of sex ratio, Varanasi is listed as one of the backward districts with 81 per cent girls not knowing about the internet while 35 per cent boys are unaware of how to use it.
In terms of monetary and banking awareness, Varanasi showed that 55 per cent of the youth have bank accounts while 40 per cent have at some point accessed it, but only a mere 11.3 per cent of the youth have used an ATM. Significantly, only 3 per cent have access to net banking.
The survey also showed that only 47 per cent could read and understand three to four written instructions.
The only relief was that 91 per cent of the youth could identify India's map.
The survey showed that 78 per cent still struggle with subtraction, and only half can read sentences. The survey, which also involved general knowledge, found 20 per cent could name their own state while 80 per cent could not identify their state on a map.
In terms of enrolment, Varanasi stood 14th from the top amongst 28 districts, the report showed. Bijnor district stood second-last at 27, out of 28 districts surveyed in terms of enrolment with 64.4 per cent.