Mind the gap

The focus of educators has to be on recovering educational opportunities lost due to the pandemic-led online learning

February 27, 2021 06:37 pm | Updated 06:38 pm IST



The shift to online learning, due to the pandemic, brought various challenges for teachers and students, including inaccessibility to devices, no or limited Internet access, and other issues. Add to this the complex interplay of reduced instruction time, lack of direct contact and context with teachers, and myriad challenges with online learning.

The cumulative effect of all of this is a learning gap between what students would have typically learned and what they have actually learned. While the full impact of this will be revealed in the forthcoming months, it is safe to say that it will be especially severe in college-bound students who are losing out on learning aspects critical to making a successful transition to post-secondary education.

In addition to the pressure of ensuring that their students are engaged and learning, educators are also entrusted with the Herculean responsibility of bridging the learning gap. Here are three decisive ways by which they can do so:

Extend the school year

Extending the school year or shortening the summer break, coupled with measures such as blended learning models, would be a viable option. In certain states such as Uttar Pradesh, innovative ideas such as harnessing Doordarshan, All India Radio and/or community radio networks are being considered to promote and use audio-based learning. Extending the school year will provide relief to students, especially higher-grade students, who cannot afford to miss out on learning critical concepts and necessary skills.

Emphasis on transition-year classes

A ‘transition class is one in which children typically go through some major transition — social, emotional, developmental, linguistic, or academic. Up until class III, for example, students typically learn to read, but after that, they read to learn. This makes class IV a transition year. Transitions place enormous pressure and demands on children and are going to be especially challenging this academic year and the next, when the effects of the learning gap will start surfacing. So, the needs of students in transition grades such as classes IV, IX, and XII should be prioritised. Extra support should be offered through after-school, weekend or summer classes, which should focus on imparting foundational and critical concepts.

Provide focussed learning support

Some students have taken to online learning like fish to water. For others, it has been a struggle. Given that online learning is here to stay, teachers need to identify the latter group through continuous monitoring and provide them additional support to ensure they don’t fall too far behind. There are many techniques teachers can adopt. Something as simple as pairing students with peer buddies who can complement their skills can help immensely. The goal should be to plan ahead and prevent cumulative learning loss for these students

While the pandemic has instigated many wonderful steps forward in education, it has also simultaneously opened up a virtual Pandora’s box. While various ways to bridge the learning gap, in the coming academic year, can be discussed assuming that things will go back to normal, we cannot expect the teaching-learning process to go back to status quo. The focus needs to be on keeping the learning process perpetual, while doing our best to address the gap.

The writer is co-founder and CMO at Learning Matters Pvt. Ltd.

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