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The study covering public school students in five states, including Karnataka, indicates that students have lost foundational skills needed for future learning.

School students sitting with mask in a classroomImage for representation/PTI
news Education Thursday, February 11, 2021 - 12:02

A study conducted among students of primary classes across five states, including Karnataka, has revealed that around 92% of children have lost at least one ability related to language — either expressing themselves orally or through writing, reading words, or understanding the words they read — during the pandemic year. The study by a research group of Azim Premji University also found that 82% of the children surveyed had lost at least one mathematical skill they had already learnt, like identifying single and double digit numbers or addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

The study covered 16,067 children in classes 2 to 6, from 1,137 public schools in 44 districts across 5 states (Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan). The findings reveal the loss of learning among children as schools remained shut during the  pandemic year. With schools remaining shut, no classroom learning has happened for almost an entire academic year for children in primary classes.

The study shows that children have not only lost out on learning from the present academic year, but have also forgotten many skills they had acquired in the previous academic year (2019-20). The abilities measured in the study are foundational skills necessary for learning concepts across all subjects, and their loss can have a serious impact on students’ learning in future grades.

For instance, among the language abilities students have lost (having learned them before schools were closed due to the pandemic) are — describing a picture or their experiences orally, reading familiar words, reading with comprehension, and writing simple sentences based on a picture. In math, the abilities measured  included identifying single and double digit numbers, performing arithmetic operations, using basic arithmetic operations for solving problems, describing 2D/3D shapes, and reading and drawing inferences from data.

The phenomenon of ‘forgetting’ or learning loss, compounded with the inadequate learning that happened amid the pandemic, has effectively set many children back by two grade levels in terms of learning, according to the study. The study was conducted in January 2021, and students’ abilities at the time were compared to teachers’ assessments of the same skills in these students back in March 2020, when schools were closed.

To compensate for the learning loss, the study suggests that students need different kinds of support — like bridge courses, extended hours, community-based engagements — and also  designing the curriculum for the coming academic year while taking the COVID-19 learning loss into consideration. 

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