"Waves of Performance" is generated using Student Distribution over Marks (0—100 across the screen)
of Maths, Science , Social Science & Reading (bottom to top)

What makes an achiever?

The National Achievement Survey of 2014 conducted by NCERT provides an insight to the learning achievement of children undergoing elementary education.
We have analysed the dataset to understand how the various factors impact the learning and performance of VIIIth standard students thus surveyed.

6722 Schools
1,84,670 Class VIII students
700 districts in 36 States/UTs

1,18,575 students (64.2%)

6,306 students (3.4%)

1,84,670 — Total Students Surveyed



Failed (below 33%) in at least one subject



Secured A grade (80% & above) in at least one subject without failing in the rest

The vast majority is unable to pass in all subjects and only a fraction of students seem to be able to manage an A grade (80%) in at least ONE subject while not failing in the rest.

For further analysis let’s call these two groups as —
underachievers  and  achievers

Breaking down the performance subject-wise we have

Total 92,255 students
underachievers 60,192 (65.2%)
achievers 1,300 (1.4%)

Total 93,079 students
underachievers 28,873 (31%)
achievers 4,144 (4.5%)

Total 90,918 students
underachievers 41,287 (45.4%)
achievers 695 (0.8%)

Total 89,485 students
underachievers 36,708 (41%)
achievers 631 (0.7%)

Maths unsurprisingly has highest share (62.5%) of underachievers. While Reading has the highest share (4.5%) of achievers.

What factors affect the marks of a student?

Various things, as enlisted in the survey, can affect the marks of a student . To find how each parameter affects the learning, the correlation factor for each parameter with the subjects' marks has been calculated and plotted in the following heatmap.

The correlation value ranges from  -1  to  +1 

A negative correlation results in a decrease in marks while positive correlation results in an increase.

The various factors here have a correlation value between to -0.14 to +0.19. Even though statistically a strong correlation (positive/negative) needs to have a value of more than +0.5/-0.5, these does give the indicators to prod further.

Reading seems to be the most affected subject by these factors. Parent’s Education and Occupation seems to be the biggest influencers along with few of the reading and study habits.

In terms of these factors

How different are the underachievers from the achievers?

To find this out, we have plotted the share of underachievers and achievers against the options they opt for in the various parameters.

Longer length of bars represent higher share of students, whereas, darker colour intensity represents higher marks obtained in the corresponding subject.

Gender seems to have no considerable impact on the marks.
An interesting thing to note here might be that among achievers girls edge out boys in all subjects except maths. While among underachievers boys perform slightly better in all subjects.
Students of age group 13-14 are seen to be scoring consistently better than those of other ages, except for in few instances where they would be second.
Admitting a student early to school might affect his marks negatively as he has to compete with more developed brains.
Single child seems to be the most common scenario.
However in general, children with siblings seem to perform slightly better than those with none, which may be because of mutual help.
In general average marks are only slightly affected by category for toppers and underachievers. General and OBC edge out the rest of the categories in performance in general.
Among the underachievers, the most common and the better scoring students have been the ones who use computer once a week.
Among achievers the the ones who do not use computer seem to edge ahead in marks, But the difference is only of 1.5% in marks between those who use and do not use computer.
Majority of the students were found to be using dictionary to learn. Ones who use dictionary are found on an average to score higher than those who do not.
Majority of students tend to read other books which is a positive sign.In most cases reading books results in better performance in marks.
60% of the students did not take private tuitions.
Students having private tuition scored slightly better than those who don't. But for achievers it did not seem to matter.
65% of all students watch TV daily.
Marks does not seem to be affected much by watching TV. Reading subject has the most positive impact on watching TV.
Majority of students tend to read magazines every day. And students who read magazine everyday seems to be scoring the same or more than the ones who do not.
Magazines seems to have the most positive effect on the subject Reading.
Playing does not seem to affect the marks adversely. Majority of students, including toppers, tend to play on most days.
75% of all students including of toppers tend to help in the household everyday.
But the highest scoring toppers tend to help only once a month.
Father’s education seems to be one of the strongest factor affecting the marks. Even among underachievers in every subject students who had educated father on average performed better.
But majority of the fathers of the surveyed students have either primary education or are illiterate.
Mother’s education just like father’s provides a strong correlation to the marks of the student. But almost 40% of the mothers surveyed were found to be illiterate.
Even among the underachievers, students who had educated mothers performed better on an average in every subject.
80% of students agreed to taking help from family members in studying or completing homeworks. Students who receive guidance at home are found to score higher on average than those who don’t.
Among underachievers in every subject the majority who performed better took help from their family.
More than 60% of the students stay within 1km from the school.
Staying closer to school leads to better marks except for Reading whose marks increases with distance.
For achievers having the same vernacular language as the spoken medium at school has a slight negative impact on Maths and Reading.
It has a slightly positive imapct on Social and Science marks, perhaps because of the ease of comprehending concepts in vernacular.
Underachievers seem to benefit from getting homework 1-2/3-4 times a week, consistently across all subjects.Maths and social are the only subject seeming to benefit from having homework everyday.
More than 60% of the students stay within 1km from the school.
For most subjects staying closer to school leads to better marks except for Reading whose marks increases the farther you stay. This might be due to the fact that one gets more time to talk and reason and read during the long everyday commute.

So, what does it all mean?

Factors that seem to affect the performance the most —

  • Social factors like Parents Education and Occupation
  • Students' Reading and Studying habits

Factors that do not seem to affect much include —

  • Gender , Watching TV and Playing
  • Using Computer or the Internet

To see what extent social factors affect the marks we can take the following two extreme cases and see performance under them —

Case 1
Students who have illiterate parents, live below poverty line and have no private tuition

Out of 10,804 students
who meet this criteria


7,559 underachievers


190 achievers

Case 2
Students who have graduate parents, live above poverty line and have private tuition

Out of 621 students
who meet this criteria


178 underachievers


107 achievers

Thus, we can see that Social Factors seem to have a huge impact on the learning and academic performance of a student.
We have seen that students perform better in explanatory subjects like Science in schools where the mode of communication is in vernacular, while their marks in English are significantly poorer.
Another interesting observation is that students who are much involved in household work, seem to take subjects like Reading and Social Science quite casually, probably because of limited time and resources allotted to studies.

However, many of the other factors viz. playing, watching TV and surfing the internet also affect the quality of life of a student. They are critical in personal development and can contribute significantly to the success of the student in other walks of life. Finding a balance between studies and other activities can go a long way.

With 64.2% of the total students surveyed being underachievers,

it seems the new challenge for school education is not just providing access but monitoring progress to ensure an all-round development of students.

This project was completed in 2 Weeks in collaboration with V Aromal Ram and Rajshree Deshmukh

The data-narrative was awarded an Honourable Mention at the Data Artistry Tournament 2018,
conducted by Gramener and RRDonnelley in partnership with NASSCOM.