The pandemic-induced learning loss is estimated to be at 220 million globally, with the figure in India being around 35 million. A survey by an ed-tech organisation revealed that, compared to pre-pandemic times, only 40-60% of learning was retained over the past 18 months. In India, the problem of learning loss has been exacerbated due to factors such as weak online teaching, insufficient content and digital divide.
Rajdeep of Bhawanipur Education Society College, West Bengal and Devadarshika and Gurumoorthy of Hindustan Deemed-to-be-University mentioned that many students struggled with lack of attention and interest in what was being taught. Kaustav from West Bengal’s Burdwan University agreed: “Students find learning to be tedious and find it difficult to focus on studies.” Ritesh Dandapat, from Symbiosis Law School Noida, pointed out that students being able to do other things while attending online classes led to a lack of focus and disciple. Souparno Bhattacharya, who studies in Chennai, sums this up: “A change of dynamics in the course of learning will lead to a situation where the primary and fundamental knowledge previously possessed by students will be forgotten.”
Causes and consequences
According to Manjur, Presidency College, Kolkata, ineffective teaching in physical and online classes has been a causative agent. Many other students across the country have identified a lack of physical interaction with friends and teachers, increased screen time, poor network connectivity, more concentration on tech over studies, eye and muscle fatigue due to constant screen time, closed spaces and regular disciplining by parents, and a lethargic attitude as factors which further intensified learning disability.
While Justin Joseph from Hindustan Deemed-to -be-University sees lack of professionalism, increase in unethical activities and no idea about one’s future as consequences, Rajdeep points to a herd mentality in learning outcomes.
Others like Ritesh fear the prospects of lower productivity, unemployment, low self-esteem among other issues. A slowdown in learning, inability to connect the dots, and lag in conceptual understanding across subjects will create a lasting problem, says Mohammed Manjur from Kolkata.
What can be done
First, the learning process can be made more attractive by including practical and recreational activities into the academic content, is a suggestion from Mohammed Manjur.
More audio and video content would help increase the retention rate. Bridge and remedial courses and community-based engagement can be used to enhance the learning process.
Kaustuv feels that increased use of television and radio to broadcast lessons in areas with poor internet connectivity would help bridge the digital divide. Implementing new learning techniques, enabling students to be active participants in the process, better student-teacher ratio and consistent institutional support are some of the other measures that could be looked at.
Role of society and government
The role of the family in providing emotional and mental support was raised by Janet, a student from Chennai. Parents must stop imposing their dreams on the children, she emphasises, adding that teachers must also help solve students’ problems and the peer group should be cooperative and supportive. One way of bridging the digital divide would be for the government to provide devices and uninterrupted power and Internet connectivity.
The writer is Pro Vice-Chancellor Hindustan Institute of Technology & Science (Deemed to be University), Chennai