The ASER 2023 report, released by the NGO Pratham Foundation, focuses on the youth of the age group 14-18 years. The report titled “ Beyond Basics” carried out an intensive survey in 28 districts across 26 states, eventually interacting with 34,745 youngsters of the aimed age group.
“One out of every five youth were unable to name any type of work or job that they aspired to,” mentions the ASER report, putting the spotlight on the dearth of clarity available to the students that would be detrimental to decision-making regarding their future.
What to study, how much further to study, what kind of work should they look out for, what kind of jobs are in demand and many such questions are not answered by any and neither do these students have valuable resources/ interactions to bring more clarity into their aspirations.
From the figures shared in the ASER report, of the students surveyed, 42.5% of males and 48.3% of females did not have a role model for their aspired work.
“Our school education system is yet to be modified to drive students more future-oriented. There is a lack of resources as well as informed people who can help guide these kids into paths that may benefit them and place them in secure positions,” says Bindu SJ, a teacher from Hyderabad.
Only 11.5% of the youth surveyed knew someone in the school/college doing similar work and just 15.7% of the teens knew a relative doing what they aspired to do.
“As many as 1 in every 4 young people surveyed were not able to name a future work option that they aspired to. Of those who could do so, close to half were unable to identify anyone who was doing the kind of work that they aspired to do, whether in the family or community or even a public figure whom they did not know personally,” mentions the ASER report.
Having proper guidance for students both at the school level and familial support to help them explore different streams, work opportunities and help them plan their further studies makes them prepared with a roadway for the future.
The Focus Group Discussions (FGD) as a part of the survey observed that the idea of having work aspirations for these students emerged in situations where they interacted/ saw others like themselves working and were able to imagine them also in the same shoes.
Nature of Exposure
The kind of exposure students receive can influence their further decisions of choosing a stream or choosing the kind of work aspirations. The examples cited by the survey are of schools being visited in Solan (Himachal Pradesh), Dhamtari (Chhattisgarh) and Sitapur (Uttar Pradesh).
While schools in Solan and Dhamtari offered all three streams in Std XI and XII (arts, science and commerce), the schools in Sitapur only offered arts. The unavailability in streams offered leaves students with restrictive choices that would influence their further studies.
The scope of broadening the options that are available for the students to make informed decisions would be effective with early exposure.
“In early adulthood itself many of these students need to earn and support their families financially. It’s a vicious cycle. Even if there are inspirations they could look upon they remain far-fetched. Cause many of these inspirations boast of the eventual success that comes with meritocracy. It negates the sheer struggle of growing up, coping with disturbed households, caste struggles etc. Early childhood education needs real focus. If the foundational literacy and aspiration of a child are not given preference, they will be blocked out of opportunities and exposure,” says Srilakshmi Santhosh, Researcher at Vismaya Kalike, an NGO focussed on joyful learning.