Will our children lose the ability to learn?
The closure of schools due to the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a complete disconnection from education for the vast majority of children or inadequate alternatives such as community classes or poor options in the form of online education, including cell phone learning. A full school year has passed in this way, with little or no learning in the current class.
Most alarming, however, is the fact that students are losing their fundamental abilities. The report rightly suggests multiple strategies to be adopted with rigorous implementation to compensate for this overall loss of learning when schools reopen. This study, undertaken in January 2021 by Azim Premji University, reveals the extent and nature of the ‘forgetfulness / regression’ type of learning loss among public school children in all primary grades due to closure of schools.
The study involved 16,067 children in 1,137 public schools in 44 districts in five states. It focused on the assessment of four specific abilities, each in language and math, in grades II-VI. These four specific abilities for each year were chosen because they are part of the abilities for all subsequent learning – in all subjects – and therefore the loss of one of them would have very serious consequences on all learning. subsequent. The approach was methodical and scientific.
An assessment of children’s learning levels when schools closed as well as their current state was needed to understand such a regression. The former was best done by teachers who were deeply engaged with their learners and therefore had a reliable assessment of children’s abilities, when schools closed in March 2020. Therefore, this baseline assessment of learning levels children, that is, where they were assessed on language and math skills when schools were closed, was carried out on the basis of a comprehensive analysis by the teachers concerned, aided by tools of appropriate assessment.
These are referred to as specific capabilities throughout the document. “Endline” was the assessment of the same children’s skills on those same abilities in January 2021, which was carried out by administering oral and written tests. The main results suggest that 92 percent of children on average lost at least one specific language skill from the previous year in all grades. Again, 92% of children in class 2, 89% of class 3, 90% of class 4, 95% of class 5, and 93% of class 6 lost at least one specific ability of the last year. About 82 percent of children on average lost at least one specific math ability from the previous year across all grades.
The situation is such that even the identification of single and double digits is lost to them. While discriminatory government policies have affected the poor and marginalized all these years in various ways, neglect of the education sector is likely to profoundly affect the future of the children in these sections. The extent and nature of the learning loss is serious enough to warrant action at all levels. Policies and processes to identify and address this loss are necessary when children return to school.
Additional support, whether in the form of bridging lessons, extended hours, community engagements and appropriate educational materials to help children acquire basic skills upon their return to school, will be needed. Do governments have time for all of this?