Learning loss higher among lower primary students: Report

Education experts and school managements want lower primary classes to be reopened immediately

Updated - September 09, 2021 01:15 am IST

Published - September 08, 2021 11:07 pm IST - Bengaluru

While studies over the last year have flagged the extent of learning loss and its impact on students, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) survey on Karnataka, released earlier this week, showed that children in lower primary classes were the worst affected.

Following this, education experts and school managements are urging the State government to reopen offline classes for students in standards I to V immediately.

ASER 2020-2021 found reading and arithmetic levels dropped significantly across all classes from I to VIII.

But the dip in learning levels was far higher in lower primary classes. For instance, 56.8% of the class I students surveyed in 2021 could not read letters. In 2018, the percentage of class I students who could not read letters was 40.3% of those surveyed, a decline of 16.5 percentage points.

On the other hand, the percentage of class VIII students who could not read a standard II-level text was lower at 33.8% in this year’s report. In other words, 66.2% could read a standard II- level text; this is only a 4.1 % decline compared to 2018.

Similarly in arithmetic skills, 42.6% of class I students surveyed could not recognise numbers one to 9. In 2018, it was 29.7% of students surveyed, which is a 12.9 percentage point decline. However, the percentage of class VIII students who could divide this year stood at 38.7%, a 0.3 % decline compared to 2018.

K. John Vijay Sagar, Professor and Head of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), said that younger children will be more affected as they are in their formative years in terms of learning. “It is difficult for both students and teachers to be involved in the teaching-learning process through the online mode when basics and foundational skills are being imparted,” he said.

Gurumurthy Kasinathan, National Coalition for the Education Emergency, said that evidence from many studies during the pandemic reveal that young children who have had no or just two to three years of schooling have been the most impacted. “These children have regressed on basic learning skills such as paying attention and being able to remember what has been taught to them. Online education would have absolutely the least impact on younger children, so these harms will not be restricted only to children from the marginalised groups in society,” he said.

He added that upper primary and high school level students may have higher resilience and may be able to manage the transition better, although they would have also regressed from their basic foundational skills.

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