S chool closures during the pandemic in our country made almost all students stay back at home, foregoing the learning that they had been acquiring through face-to-face teaching and learning programmes in their schools.
Such development gave rise to the emergence of remote learning programmes. However, only some percentage of homebound schoolchildren could access remote learning programmes. Even they learnt less in these programmes compared to what they usually learn in schools, thereby sustaining loss of learning. The remaining children, who could not access these programmes for various reasons, had to forego their learning completely. Considering the long period for which only remote learning remained an option, the loss of learning that homebound schoolchildren bore might have been substantial.
School closures also led children to forego activities such as games and sports, and opportunities to socialise with their friends that resulted in their experiencing anxiety, depression and trauma.
Recovering the loss of learning that such schoolchildren faced can neither be ignored nor can it be delayed. Learning is a sequenced continuum, in which facts and concepts that are previously learnt function as building blocks for the learning to be acquired subsequently. Missing such facts and concepts would create a break in the continuum of learning, causing the subsequent learning to be hampered. Any delay in helping students recover the learning that was lost, would affect their future learning. Therefore, the learning that was lost by these children has to be recovered sooner than later.
Loss of learning is found have a negative bearing on the future lifetime earnings of those who faced learning losses. The Asian Development Bank has projected that "children in South Asian countries, including India, could lose up to 4.7% of their future earnings due to school closures."
Learning losses also impact the GDP of countries. Research by Hanushek and Woessmann (2020) published by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) suggests that the GDPs of the G-20 countries (including that of India) would have a lasting downward impact as a result of students losing learning in the pandemic. As per their projections , India could lose up to $6,368 billion of GDP and $12,552 billion of GDP [in terms of their present value for the remainder of the century] if students had lost 1/3 and 2/3 years of their learning, respectively.
Programmes to recover lost learning deserve top priority and there is a need to ensure that such programmes are effective. Schools must be equipped with Internet facilities and audio-visual aids to help teachers fully deploy educational technology in their teaching. The need to orient those teachers, who lack confidence in using educational technology, is equally important. Any programme finalised in this respect should also be based on inputs obtained from a sample of stakeholders of school-level education. Conducting a pre-assessment test of the knowledge, understanding and skills of students attending these programmes and tailoring the topics to be covered based on the feedback obtained might help the programmes to be more goal-based.
School authorities should prepare clear guidelines on implementing such programmes and circulate them among schools. Such guidelines might include details on the curricular topics to be covered; schedule of timings and duration of these programmes; suggested instructional methods and materials to be used in teaching-learning; details on the frequency and the format of evaluations to be conducted to assess the effectiveness of these programmes; and on the arrangements made to refer children, if any, who have shown signs of anxiety and depression for counselling .
Education, by its nature, is an interactive process. Giving students an opportunity to get their doubts clarified at the end of each class of the learning recovery programmes and encouraging them to interact among themselves as well as with their teachers in schools in-person and also online is crucially important.
Face-to-face mode of teaching and learning is surely a very effective method of instruction particularly for younger children. The teacher's presence in a classroom and his/her proximity can motivate children.
The distance mode of teaching-learning together with the effects of several factors such as shorter duration, the lack of availability of digital gadgets to several students, lack of full knowledge about using them, the lack of infrastructural facilities like uninterrupted supply of electricity, lack of accessibility to broadband, gender bias that favoured more boys in possessing/ using mobiles as compared to girls etc. contributed to the inequality in education, negatively impacting the children of migrants, minorities and those in rural areas.
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