Different surveys, similar indicators

Two surveys on teenagers in Nagaland conducted this year reflected more or less similar conclusion- they scored well in the theoretical aspects but struggled with practical applications.

The first survey, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2017, released in January this year implied that “Youth in Nagaland excel at reading skills but are average arithmeticians.”

In a detour from its earlier surveys, ASER 2017 Report focused on an older age group (14-18 years) – youth who have moved beyond the elementary school.

When compared with the national average, youth in Nagaland breezed through reading but the struggle in basic mathematical calculations such as addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. For instance, 88.2% were able to read a sentence in English against the national average was 58.2%.

However, they were found wanting in financial participation and related activities. While 50.4% had bank accounts, only 15.3% had ever used ATM and 23.1% had deposited or withdrawn money. Only 19.6% can apply a discount while a minuscule 3% could calculate repayment against the national average of 37.7% and 15.5% respectively.

The other survey is the recent Naandi Foundation‘s ‘Teenage Girls (TAG) Report 2018 covering 13-19 years age group.

The result: they are more ‘healthy, educated, aspirational and have better access to other basic facilities, but less proficient in ‘new age skills.’ Overall, Nagaland scored well, slotted 6 among the 28 states covered in the survey.

The state performed well in terms of schooling; health indicators like nutritional status, Anaemia status, body mass index or access to facilities like electricity, clean water, toilet and hygienic methods of menstrual protection. In terms of aspiration and other indices, the outlook was again positive. Enrolment was high at 89.4% while child marriage was almost not existent (99.2%). 81.3% ‘wish to do at least graduation or study for a job entrance examination’ while aspirations about career or job were at 82.8% against the national average of 70% and 74.3% respectively.

However glaring practical roadblocks were also identified by both reports.
For instance, the ASER Report highlighted that while mobile penetration was quite high with over 65%, access to internet low at 58.8%. In TAG Report, while 95.3% has ‘Ability to make and receive calls on a mobile phone,’ however, searching for information on the internet or ‘search for information on the internet, send and receive emails’ was low at 34.6%.
In the ASER survey, 50.8% of youth had never used a computer. In TAG Report, only was 13.2% of those surveyed could ‘write a document in English on a computer.’

Only 30% of in TAG Report said they can ‘withdraw money from an ATM, bank, or post office vis-à-vis 46.3% national average. Similar patterns were observed in the ASER Report.

In other parameters of ‘new age skills’ like asking a ‘male stranger for directions or help; travelling alone on a journey longer than 4 hours; living alone and going to the police, the state average was below the national level.

Digital skills have great potential in unlocking economic opportunities for youth. However, the deficiencies highlighted in the surveys will prove detrimental as the state struggle with employment crisis, particularly among the youth.

Thus, all stakeholders have a responsibility in equipping young people with digital and financial skills necessary to be active members of the digital economy. As the surveys suggest, there is a pertinent need for a skill development ecosystem which is practical and demonstrative, to equip the youth as the world moves progressively towards a digital and knowledge economy.

The state’s policymaker should take note of the results with added urgency. Every stakeholder from top to bottom stressed on skill development as the pathway for the future. Time is opportune quick reorganisation and addresses its practical aspects.