What Insights does the ASER 2023 Report Offer on Youth Future Aspirations? 

Source – ASER 2023: Beyond Basics

The Pratham Education Foundation recently unveiled its ASER 2023 report titled ‘Beyond Basics.‘ The comprehensive survey covered 28 districts across 26 states, engaging with 34,745 individuals in the 14-18 age group. The report emphasizes the assessment of youth access to digital devices and proficiency in digital tasks. Additionally, it delves into the aspirations of young individuals regarding their future pursuits. This report provides valuable insights into the educational landscape and digital preparedness of the youth in various regions.

Below is a summarized overview of the primary discoveries from the ASER 2023 report, ‘Beyond Basics,’:

Educational Enrollment

Overall enrollment stands at 86.8% for 14-18-year-olds, with slight gender gaps and noticeable variations by age. Notable differences emerge with 3.9% of 14-year-olds not enrolled compared to 32.6% of 18-year-olds.

Academic Streams

The predominance in the Arts/Humanities stream among this age group, with 55.7% enrolled in Std XI or higher. STEM and Commerce streams follow at 31.7% and 9.4%, respectively. Notably, fewer females opt for STEM (28.1%) compared to males (36.3%).

Vocational Training

Only 5.6% of surveyed youth are currently pursuing vocational training or related courses. College-level youth show a higher inclination (16.2%), and shorter duration courses (6 months or less) are prevalent.

Outside of Household Work Patterns

A gender disparity exists, with 40.3% of males and 28% of females engaging in work other than household tasks for at least 15 days in the preceding month. Most youth involved in non-household work, irrespective of gender, are found working on family farms.

Digital Awareness and Gender Dynamics

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, ASER 2023 delved into the digital competencies of rural Indian youth, shedding light on gender disparities. While nearly 90% of youths have smartphones, ownership is notably skewed, with males (43.7%) being more than twice as likely to own one compared to females (19.8%). Computer/laptop availability is low at 9%, with gender differences in proficiency, favoring males. Communication patterns reveal that half of males have an email ID, contrasting with under 30% of females. Social media usage is widespread (90.5%), but males (93.4%) are slightly more engaged than females (87.8%). Notably, only half of social media users, predominantly males, are acquainted with online safety settings. 

Regarding education, two-thirds of smartphone users employ them for educational activities, irrespective of gender. However, only 25% of non-enrolled youth do the same. In the realm of services, over a quarter use smartphones for online services, with a pronounced gender gap favoring males (37.6% vs. 19%). Additionally, 80% of youth utilize smartphones for entertainment activities during the reference week, underscoring the pervasive gender dimensions in digital access and usage.

ASER 2023 reveals intricate gender dynamics shaping the educational and digital landscape for rural Indian youth post-COVID. Age-related enrollment gaps highlight the need for tailored interventions, while academic preferences underscore gender imbalances, notably in STEM. Vocational training exhibits gender-specific trends. 

Amidst these, the digital gender gap is evident in smartphone ownership, social media engagement, and online safety awareness, with males enjoying more favorable access. While technology aids education and entertainment, disparities persist in accessing online services and educational activities on smartphones. Bridging these divides requires targeted policies to empower all rural youth in navigating the evolving challenges of the contemporary world.

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