An education emergency

There is an urgent need to improve the hybrid model, bridge the digital divide, and, critically, help government schools
While the 2021 report does not explicitly shed light on all-India learning outcomes (except for Karnataka), many of its findings indicate the negative impact Covid-19 has had on learning levels (Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO) PREMIUM
While the 2021 report does not explicitly shed light on all-India learning outcomes (except for Karnataka), many of its findings indicate the negative impact Covid-19 has had on learning levels (Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)
Updated on Nov 18, 2021 06:09 PM IST
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ByHT Editorial

The 16th Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2021 (Rural), which was released on Wednesday by Pratham Education Foundation, has five key takeaways on India’s Covid-19-hit primary education landscape: First, there was no spike in the out-of-school children numbers; second, there has been an increase in the proportion of children enrolled in government schools between 2018 and 2020 (64.3% to 65.8%), and further, to 70.3% by 2021; third, private school enrolments witnessed a 10-year low; fourth; there is a growing dependency on private tuition classes; and, fifth, there is a stark digital divide. The survey usually provides insights on levels of foundational learning at the elementary level. But with schools closed since March 2020, the survey explored how children (5-16 years) have studied at home since the onset of the pandemic and the challenges that schools and households face as schools reopen. The phone-based ASER 2021 was conducted in 25 states and three Union Territories (UTs).

While the 2021 report does not explicitly shed light on all-India learning outcomes (except for Karnataka), many of its findings indicate the negative impact Covid-19 has had on learning levels. For example, in Karnataka, the only state that tracked foundational skills this year, the report found a decline in reading ability among primary students. Teachers from states and UTs have also been saying that they are observing “unprecedented” loss in learning levels. Many students, they say, have not just forgotten what they learnt before Covid-19, but they are also showing psychological and behavioural changes. This has happened despite the efforts of many teachers, who, along with their Covid-19-related work, have used unconventional solutions to teach students.

The actual depth of the crisis will be more evident after the Centre releases the findings of the National Achievement Survey (NAS), conducted earlier this month. This will be the first NAS after the release of the National Education Policy 2020, and will assess the learning interruptions during the pandemic, and design remedial measures. There is an urgent need to improve the hybrid model, develop online educational content, mediate the digital divide, and most importantly, provide support to government schools so they can handle the influx of students. Like many other countries, India, too, is facing an education emergency. The response has to be swift and significant so that no child is left behind.

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Sunday, December 05, 2021