When education institutions moved into online learning during the pandemic-induced lockdown, no one could have predicted that this would magnify pre-existing learning inequalities and cause learning loss. What is scary is not that students have not progressed in a grade- and age-appropriate manner but that all age groups have lost skills that they already possessed.
Learning regression includes the loss of foundational abilities such as describing a picture, reading with understanding, writing simple sentences and performing basic mathematical operations. This impacts not only the acquisition of more complex skills but also has disastrous consequences for conceptual understanding across subjects. According to a study in March 2021 by the Azim Premji Foundation (APF), on average, 92% of students have lost at least one specific language ability and 82% have lost at least one specific mathematical ability from the previous year. There is a dire need for well-planned, strong intervention to help bring them back on track. Here are the top three areas that must be immediately addressed:
The first step is to assess current academic levels and understand the magnitude of the loss. Then reconfigure the curriculum to focus on foundational abilities. Third, support teachers with teaching-learning materials that focus on the recovery of lost skills and abilities.
Unfortunately, most children are incapable of recognising or articulating that they are stressed. The disconnect from schools and peers, discomfort or inability to cope with modified learning processes, the pressure of forgetting skills, the stress of experiencing health and financial losses during the pandemic... the list of stressors is long. Students need support to deal with this first.
Train the teachers
Teachers need to be armed in the right way with training in remedial instruction, using digital technology to improve foundational literacy and numeracy skills, and delivering remedial instruction remotely. Further, they need access to a variety of right TLM to reach learners at different levels.
The burden of recovery cannot rest on teachers alone. It is the collective and critical responsibility of the government and private education sectors to equip and enable teachers for this Herculean task. While there is no vaccination against learning loss, we can certainly do the next best thing: empower our teachers with the right training and tools.
The writer is the co-founder of Learning Matters, an ed-tech start-up based in Bengaluru.