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Focus groups, recovery courses, surveys — how states aim to fix Covid learning loss of kids

The education ministry has begun earmarking budgets after states and Union territories shared with it their plans to identify and bridge learning gaps last month.

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New Delhi: From dividing children into groups depending on their learning levels to conducting recovery courses, various states and Union territories have begun taking measures to address learning loss in schools caused by the pandemic, ThePrint has learnt.

The findings of last month’s National Achievement Survey — an exercise undertaken by the Ministry of Education every three years to assess learning outcomes — are indicative of the severe impact of Covid-driven school closures on children’s learning levels. 

A senior education official privy to the development told ThePrint Tuesday that the ministry has begun earmarking budgets after states and Union territories shared with it their plans to identify and bridge learning gaps last month. 

States will also conduct surveys to identify “out of school” children as well as dropouts before the academic session begins in July, the official further said. 

An “out of school” child is one who is of school-going age, but has never enrolled in one, while dropouts are those who leave mid-way.  

The idea, the official said, was to get dropouts back into the school system. However, the official admitted that it could take at least two years to get students to pre-pandemic learning levels. 

For “out of school students”, states plan to conduct a bridge course, the official said. The course is aimed at introducing such children to the idea of school and learning before they are introduced to age-appropriate teaching, he added.

These interventions are part of a detailed plan that the education ministry had shared with states and union territories earlier this year to identify and bridge learning losses caused by the pandemic.

The plan was to be implemented in phases. States and UTs were originally told to conduct their surveys by April-May, but this got delayed due to reasons that were not immediately clear. 

Interventions that the central government had planned included an Oral Reading Fluency (ORF) survey among children to determine where they stand in terms of reading skills, pairing government and private schools in clusters, and schemes to help students get back to classroom learning.

Also Read: Which state’s topped Modi govt’s education survey? Clue: It was below national avg last time

How states are identifying students who need help

The education official told ThePrint that states are conducting tests to help determine students’ learning levels in order to determine the appropriate intervention. 

For example, Karnataka is working on improving students’ numeracy and literacy skills by dividing them in groups suited to their learning level. The state will first help students make up for the last two years before going back to its regular curriculum, the official said. 

Gujarat’s remedial plans are similar. An education advisor to the state government told ThePrint that it had conducted a test across schools in April-end to make a list of students who needed interventions. 

“[We have made a list of] whether they [students] are weak in maths, language or reading. This was conveyed to their parents and teachers, who are taking remedial steps,” the advisor added.   

Meanwhile, an official in the J&K education department told ThePrint that schools in the union territory have begun identifying students who needed help and were also training their teachers to equip them to deal with such students.

Madhya Pradesh and Haryana also have similar plans, the education ministry official quoted earlier told ThePrint. 

According to the Centre’s plan, states are expected to start bringing “out of school” children into the formal schooling system and ensure that all students have books and uniforms, the official further said. 

Schools are expected to conduct parent-teacher meetings throughout the year and map students’ learning outcomes every week, he added.

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)

Also Read: Less than 20% of students in India could access education in pandemic, learning suffered


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