9 in 10 children in urban private schools can’t read in English

Added On : 14-Aug-2018

Stones2Milestones, a Gurgaon based social enterprise that aims to address the reading and learning levels of students across the country, has recently released its ‘FAST Reading Assessment’ report ‘Where India Reads 2017-18’ that highlights the profound lack of one of the most important academic and life skills children should imbibe - reading in English.

The largest study of its kind conducted till date, the assessment covered 19,765 children in 106 urban private schools across 20 states of India, who participated across grades 4, 5 & 6 corresponding to the three levels of FAST 4, FAST 5 & FAST 6 in 2017-18.

Research indicates that a child must be an independent reader with fluency and comprehension by the end of grade 3. FAST reveals that in India, children attain this independence only at grade 6 level. Out of all the children who appeared for FAST, 12.5 percent in Grade 4 and only 2.7 percent in Grades 5 & 6, were reading at an age appropriate level. In fact, 11 percent of those who appeared in FAST 4 did not even possess the abilities of the lowest level reader. This shows that all schools - public and private - need to pay attention to building this crucial skill in the children.

Commenting on the findings of the report, Kavish Gadia, co-founder & CEO, Stones2Milestones, said, “FAST is a big leap for our country's education landscape, an effort that would make the essential visible with its systematic approach from diagnostic to benchmarking. It is the first step in making learning effective for children independent of what and where they learn. We are hoping that the report on 'Where India Reads' is a significant eye-opener for even urban private schools where, as the report suggests, for bringing reading to the core learning focus rather than just restricted to a namesake library period. We will be taking the assessment to 1.5 Million children over the next 12 months.”

Reviewed by Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) India, FAST is a breakthrough assessment and report, for educators in India. The purpose of this study is to test and measure the reading abilities of children in grades 4-6 of private, unaided, English medium schools from across the country. It measures children’s performance across a whole gamut of higher and lower order reading skills. The assessment is then plotted on an indigenously developed scale and helps in providing both, a holistic as well as a realistic picture about a child’s ability to read and comprehend the language. It helps schools and parents in bridging the glaring gaps in the education system, by devising methods to help a child build its language skills. The assessment does not take reading ability in isolation, but understands and studies the cultural, familial and environmental context across the country and in various states before developing the test and analysing the result.

Stones2Milestones is pioneering the effort in India, to help drive and sustain the academic upliftment of elementary school children. The organisation seeks to bring about awareness that reading and comprehending text is about enhancing overall cognition, which directly impacts a person’s creativity, innovation, empathy and higher order thinking.

Through the evaluation of students at the elementary levels, the organisation has been able to identify and understand the barriers faced by students at a higher level of education as well.

There is a clear map that indicates the abilities a child possesses at each reading level, along with a data-driven approach on the kinds of skills teachers need to work on developing to enhance children’s reading ability to the next level.

Commenting on the release of the FAST report, Sarah Richardson, research director, Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), said, “The lack of ability to read is a fundamental problem that has not always received sufficient attention. The FAST assessment is a credible attempt at focussing attention on this challenge by highlighting issues of interest for a range of relevant stakeholders, whether it is students, teachers, parents, school leaders or policy makers.”

Prof. (Dr.) Venita Kaul, former senior education specialist, World Bank, too spoke about the data the report revealed. “FAST is one of the very few assessment reports that has tried to assess the learning levels of children and revealed that the situation in schools is not as favourable as we would like to believe,” she said.

FAST also showcased that children with ‘reading-ready’ environments at home, characterised by access to books of their choice, regularity of reading and support from an adult, scored better than those who did not. This enlightens us about the need for a complete reading ecosystem with parents, schools and teachers as equal stakeholders in a child’s journey to build the will and skill of reading.

Ultimately, the objective of the FAST Assessment is to serve as a base from which educators and policymakers can: understand the reading process, assess two components of the reading process – comprehension and vocabulary (meaning-making and word use fluency) as well as understand how the children’s home environment impacts reading skills.

Stones2Milestones endeavours to ‘Create a Nation of Readers’ and is working towards building one through continuous and consistent evaluations, assessment and reports.

The complete report can be downloaded at https://f-ast.in.

Stones2Milestones is on a mission to 'Create a Nation of Readers' by providing diagnostic, affordable, research-based and intuitive reading and literacy solutions for schools, teachers and parents.