[Editorial Analysis] The crisis ahead, from learning loss to resumption

Mains Paper 2: National
Prelims level: Not much
Mains level: Problem with school closure

Context:

• Health crisis has resulted in educational disruption unparalleled since the mass education system took root in India.
• There is no clarity on the opening of schools that have been closed for 16 months.

• The country has tried to fill the gap of the online classes through online classes and e-connectivity, with special focus on secondary and higher education.

Problem with school closure:

• First issue with online education is the issue of access. Due to lack of connectivity as well as a lack of access to e-devices, only a fraction of children even in secondary and higher age groups are able to access online education of any kind. This access is even minuscule to primary and upper primary schools. Government school children are especially disadvantaged in this regard.

• Second issue is about the quality of online education itself. Percentage of teachers in the country capable of handling digital platforms for pedagogic purposes is very small. The educational material provided by most of the teachers in online classes has been mere reproduction of what is used in a physical classroom.

Effect of online classes:

• Online classes have resulted in nutrition loss and learning loss as shown by studies worldwide:
1. In the Netherlands, where there was a short lockdown, equitable school funding, and excellent broadband access, it was found that
2. Among eight- to 11-year-olds, students made little or no progress while learning from home
3. Learning loss from online class was most pronounced among students from disadvantaged homes
4. Studies in the United States show that lockdowns have also prompted some students to leave the public school system altogether.

• Azim Premji Foundation studies (conducted in January 2021, covering more than 16,000 children, five states in the age group 6-11 years), found that 92% of children on average have lost at least one specific language ability and 82% their mathematical ability as compared to previous year across all classes.

Question over future of opening of offline education:

• The first question pertains to what should be policy while promoting students to the next class. Will the promotion should be automatic or some changes need to be brought in promotion policy.

• Also, there issue of implementing Age-appropriate enrolment, as guaranteed under the Right to Education Act uniformly across the states.

International experience:

In this regard, India can learn from practices being followed across the world which are:
• One way of addressing the learning crisis might be to repeat the entire academic year as has been planned in Kenya. Extended time for classes both in duration of school hours and more calendar days of interaction can be practised as done in the Philippines.

• Another approach is to reduce and synthesize the curriculum as done by the state of Ontario in Canada so that students are able to focus on a few important subjects and learn them well.

• Third approach is catering to the needs of the most disadvantaged through one-to-one tutoring. To do this, the National Tutoring Programme has been launched in the United Kingdom (funding of £350 million) and Ghana (national programme), different States in the U.S, university students of Italy have also taken similar initiatives.

• Idea of Accelerated education programmes or “bridge courses” which can condense several months/ even years of schooling into a few weeks or months, has also been taken by several countries.

• All these International measures have focused on Acceleration, not remediation. However, issues with these models is that they tend to ignore the complexity of psychological preparedness in children. Hence, they reduce learning to a single dimension of achievement. This invariably works against children in low-resource contexts. Education needs to be seen in a holistic term. As said by Tony Cotton, the renowned mathematics educator from the U.K., the curriculum should not be seen as a fixed list of content that must all be covered before the learner can leave school. If the curriculum can be seen as a map, as a landscape, where there is always plenty of time to explore.

Way forward:

• After the resumption of the school, most likely events will be schools simply reverting to business as usual, with a reduced syllabus, and no change whatsoever in the overall curriculum or pedagogy. Schools will be racing through the syllabus to catch up. This might have chances of disaster where those Children who cannot keep especially from the poorest section would simply be left behind. This would be a great disaster.

• Hence the need of the hour is the National rejuvenation programme for elementary education. School system needs to be supported by a vast body of volunteers engaging in small groups with children from the most disadvantaged sections.

• There is a need for a flexible curriculum rooted in local reality, working with physical material, and pedagogy based on sound principles of psychology of learning. This is because we should not reduce education to foundational literacy and numeracy, but treat children as they are, study the experiences they bring, and address their nutritional, emotional and intellectual well-being as a whole.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the Coconut Development Board (CDB), consider the following statements:

1. It is a statutory body established under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India.

2. Its headquarters is located at Udupi in Karnataka.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: A

Explanation:

The Union Cabinet has approved amendment in the Coconut Development Board Act, 1979 to make the post of Chairman, Coconut Development Board as Non-Executive one.
• Coconut Development Board (CDB) is a statutory body established under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India.
• Its mandate is the integrated development of coconut cultivation and industry in the country with focus on productivity increase and product diversification.
• Its headquarters is located at Kochi in Kerala.
• The Board came into existence in 1981.

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