COVID disruptions National

Surveys on learning losses by month end, panel told

VISAKHAPATNAM , ANDHRA PRADESH : 19/04/2021 : School children walking past the COVID-19 testing being done at the health center located at a school at China Waltair, in Visakhapatnam on Monday, April 19, 2021. Photo : K.R. DEEPAK / The Hindu  

The Centre is assessing how badly school students have been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and will collect States’ surveys on digital education access and learning losses by the end of this month, the School Education Department told a parliamentary panel on education on Monday.

The panel asked the Centre to also assess the impact of its own guidelines and interventions, as well as the impact of schools which were reopened in some States during the lull between the two waves of the pandemic, according to panel members.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, Women, Children, Youth and Sports, chaired by Rajya Sabha MP Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, also held its last round of consultations on textbook reforms, hearing from right-wing think tank Public Policy Research Centre (PPRC), which was previously headed by Dr. Sahasrabuddhe himself when he was BJP vice-president.

According to a member of the committee, the PPRC presentation complained that Mughal history is glorified in Indian textbooks, while there is an insufficient understanding of ancient Indian history. It compared history textbooks from Gujarat, Kerala and the National Council of Educational Research and Training, arguing that the latter two give too much importance to the Mughal era. The Committee has heard from 8-10 such groups — including at least four others with similar views — and is likely to submit its report on reforming the design and content of textbooks in a month’s time, another member said.

School Education Department Secretary Anita Karwal briefed the committee on the learning gap caused by the pandemic and efforts to bridge it. A survey of Classes 8-12 in centrally run schools last August showed that 80-90% of students were dependent on mobiles rather than laptops for digital schooling, while 30% were affected by electricity supply disruptions. States were then asked to do a similar mapping of access to online schooling, digital devices and Internet connectivity.

“They [that is, the School Education department] are getting to lay their hands on those reports by the end of this month. That will show what is the nature of this learning loss,” said one member.

“Members asked if any survey or impact assessment has been made. They are saying that because in the last two months the pandemic was at its highest, they weren’t able to do that. But they have started, and say very soon they will give the survey results,” said another member. The postponed National Achievement Survey, which assesses the learning levels of students in Class 3, 5 and 8, will also be held in November, the department told the panel.

“The government has already created a slew of measures. So we have suggested that it would be better if you could assess the impact of those measures and also assess the experiment of opening the schools which were conducted in the intervening period by States like Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir in the months of January and February. Let those experiments be assessed,” said one member. Another member said the Centre had made it clear any fresh reopening of schools will be decided by State governments.

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Printable version | Jul 31, 2021 5:17:50 PM |

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