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Pandemic Has Created Learning Losses Which Will Have Long-term Effects

Schools are yet to open from the pandemic initiated shutdown and education systems are struggling to meet the needs of million students.

As much as the nation is emerging slowly from a pandemic created trance, the education sector is still on a virtual model, in a headlong into recovery efforts, which reflects a varying degree of concern.

Schools are yet to open from the pandemic initiated shutdown and education systems are struggling to meet the needs of million students. The closure has affected at least Million students in public and private schools. A study has forecasted students who are facing inadequate learning instructions might retain 70% of their annual reading gains, whereas mathematics is in a dreary situation. Researchers have edged that that reckoning on grade level students could lose half or all of academic growth one would expect in an ordinary academic year. Now looking at grade 5 students, who will be transiting from primary to middle school, it's a disturbing aspect that they will be missing out on the readiness they require to shoulder the complex assignments in the higher grades.

In this backdrop can we see just run through the structure pre- corona time. Despite all the educational policies and collective effort put together to accomplice quality in education, still, it remains an improbable ambition. Today India has 15 lakh schools, 3 to 4 times more than China. China has 5 lakh schools with a similar population. Whereas in India, teacher to student ratio is 35:22 (student per teacher) in china it's 23: 65 and globally it's 23:65 ( Unesco). There is a shortage of 10,000 teachers at the moment. There are regions where a single teacher is managing 100 students. Teachers are burdened with Multi-task activities apart from academic activities. Though after RTE, there is 100% enrollment drop out rate is too high, and only 30% complete grade 12. Learning levels are unceasingly reflected by Aser reports, which acknowledges the poor learning outcomes of children intensified by 70% of teachers grade level incompetences. Core academic institutions are understaffed and lack skilled people.

Digital Inequality:

The fact that only 8% of homes with young members have computers with net links have made matters difficult as it is. The digital divide is evident across class, gender, region, or place of residence. Among the most deficient 20% of households, only 2.7% have access to a computer and 8.9% to internet facilities. In the case of the top 20% of households, the proportions are 27.6% and 50.5%. Mission Antyodaya, a nationwide survey of villages conducted by the Ministry of Rural Development in 2017-’18 shed light on the fact that while 16% of India’s households received one to eight hours of electricity daily, and 33% received 9-12 hours, only 47% received more than 12 hours a day. These statistics paint a vivid picture of the difficulty that the majority of the country is facing while adapting to the online classroom model

The Gaping Gender Crack:

While the digital divide is already pretty apparent in the country, the stark case of gender inequality in internet usage further adds on to the existing set of problems. As per the Internet and Mobile Association of India report, in 2019, while 67% of men had access to the internet, this figure was only at 33% for women. The disparity is more prominent in rural India, where the models are 72% and 28% for men and women, respectively. Further, a report by leading global education network Quacquarelli Symonds states that among respondents who use home broadband, over 3% face cable cuts, 53% face poor connectivity and 32% face signal issues. In the case of mobile data, 40.2% face poor connectivity, and 56.6% face signal issues. These issues prove to be untenable even in cases where the necessary infrastructure was provided for in the first place.

Lack of Digital Infrastructure:

Although the Central and State governments have continually shown the promise of a better tomorrow via multiple initiatives, not enough expenditure has been allotted to improve the cause of digital infrastructure for remote learning in the country. In fact, in 2020-’21, the Ministry of Human Resource Development budget for digital e-learning was reduced to Rs 469 crore from Rs 604 crore in 2019-’20, a highly discouraging development to say the least.

The ASER report survey has confirmed the absence of school readiness among five-year-olds. Only 23.5% of children in Anganwadi's or government preschool could do a listening comprehension task.36.8% could do a counting objects task. It is known fact the first eight years of a child’s brain is exceptionally crucial and can pick up developmentally appropriate skills and are more likely to finish school successfully. Indian early childhood education impact study by Ambedkar university confirms that the origin of learning crisis lie even before a child enters grade 1. Many children are underage before they enter level 1, which leads to a mismatch in learning ability; the cognitive skills are better acquired by a six-year-old than a five-year-old in the same class. 65% of rural India is dependent on Anganvadis, where the health and nutrition factor overtake the learning aspect.

Situations have worsened more for students belonging to economically backwards dealing with hunger, employment or homelessness. Moreover, it will be relevant to mention here that curriculum designing for the virtual classroom requires new strategies of teaching. The question is how to make learning exciting and interactive. We can start by choosing the right platform, and as we are aware, all schools across the nation are zooming or hanging out on google. Use of interactive ppt, IL techniques, gamification, mind mapping, self-learning, instructional designs, simulations in learning. Bandwidth remains a problem in some areas which can be addressed through recorded lectures. Teachers can maintain total transparency with the children about teachers experiences and feelings so that children can identify themselves with the teachers, share their struggle with their mentors and maybe figure out together how to handle it. In-person classroom, there was a physical connection, but in virtual classrooms, the teachers have to look a bit vulnerable with emotions for students to join.

Historical records show that lengthy interruption from schooling can undercut or cripple children academic achievement and success in higher education.

Interestingly the world bank has reported that school closure may cost over $400 billion to India. The adjusted learning year of schooling (LAYS) concept introduced by the world bank, seeks to combine access and learning outcomes into a single measure. It combines quantity (years of schooling) and amount (how much children know at a given grade level) to measure human capital in a society. The report said most school systems closed in the match; children have been out of school for eight months, being out of school for that children long not only stop learning new things but forget whatever they have learned. The projected learning loss for the region is .5 lays, falling from 6.5 to 6.0 lays an enormous setback in schooling.

This is a humongous learning trajectory if not addressed in time which can be calamitous. Promoting students indiscriminately to the next grade might widen the already existing gap; therefore, diagnostic testing to be introduced to determine what children know when they return to the classroom. Designing dynamic remedial plan can make a lot of children overcome the learning disparity.

An expanded school calendar, shortening recess time, vacation time and introduction of a hybrid method. Eight months passed; we are still looking for plenty of signals that says everything will be ok. But we have no idea what the coming months will bring, or which platform will play a prominent role: virtual or in-person.

From the fading excitement of schools shutting due to a lockdown unheard and unwitnessed of, into schools relocating to homes, towards an undetermined future of the true essence of the school becoming.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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