New Delhi: Prolonged school closure amid the pandemic has had a significant negative impact on younger children, found a study by the Azim Premji University (APU) over the “loss of learning during pandemic”.
Schools in India have been closed since March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Even as some states have opened up again, only children from Class 6 to 12 are allowed to enter schools as of now.
Children in classes up to 5 are still not allowed to return to school. The APU study conducted in January focused on this group, which has missed classes in school for nearly a year now.
On average, 92 per cent children have lost at least one specific language ability and 82 per cent have lost at least one specific mathematical ability from the previous year across classes 2-6, found the study. Over 16,000 school children were surveyed for the study across five states — Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand.
Language knowledge and mathematical ability are the two parameters on which learning levels were tested.
For languages, 92 per cent of children in class 2, 89 per cent in class 3, 90 per cent in class 4, 95 per cent in class 5, and 93 per cent in class 6 have lost at least one such specific ability from the previous class in the last one year, said the study.
For mathematics, the respective figures were 67 per cent in class 2, 76 per cent in class 3, 85 per cent in class 4, 89 per cent in class 5, and 89 per cent in class 6.
The study “reveals the extent and nature of the ‘forgetting/regression’ kind of learning loss (i.e. what was learnt earlier but has now been lost) among children in public schools across primary classes because of school closure during the Covid-19 pandemic”, said the Bengaluru-based not-for-profit institute’s report released Wednesday.
What the study found
The study focused on the “assessment of four specific abilities each in language and mathematics, across classes 2-6”.
“These four specific abilities for each grade were chosen because these are among the abilities for all subsequent learning – across subjects – and so the loss of any one of these would have very serious consequences on all further learning,” it added.
To test the language knowledge, the surveyors tested students for oral expression, reading fluency, writing skill and listening comprehension. For mathematics, skills like numbers, operations, problem solving, shapes, fraction and data handling were tested.
The report quoted one of the teachers interviewed during the survey as saying, “Reading has become a bigger problem than before across grades. Students of class 6 could not answer even the story-based questions or get the meaning of the text. In other words, we can say that they can no longer read with comprehension.”
The teacher added, “The situation with writing is even more troublesome – in the writing section, only one student of class 3 could write a sentence without errors.”
Speaking on the mathematical abilities of children, a teacher from Madhya Pradesh said, “Earlier, children could add using numbers in their notebooks. Now they can add numbers when asked to do so verbally but are unable to do the same on paper.
“This is probably because dealing with numbers as a quantity is a part of their context – they count their goats, cattle, marbles (for playing), and money for buying anything – they have lost the ability to use symbols for numbers,” the teacher said.
Impact could be compounded without action
The report added that the “impact of learning loss due to children forgetting what they had learnt earlier is likely to be further compounded if nothing is done to compensate for this loss when schools reopen”.
It called for supplemental support in various forms to bridge the learning gap.
“Supplemental support, whether in the form of bridge courses, extended hours, community-based engagements, and teaching-learning materials will be necessary to help children gain lost abilities and to further their learning in the class they return to when schools reopen,” it added.