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The Financial Express

Helping the child learners recover their loss 


Helping the child learners recover their loss 

With the second wave of the pandemic looking more ominous than the first, the plan for opening up of educational institutions cannot but be deferred, most likely indefinitely. Last year's lockdown was passed as a general holiday but this time no such euphemism has been used probably to put the message across that the situation is worse now. But the timing of the surge of death and infection has compelled people to defy the threat of the pandemic.

Industries and factories, readymade garment (RMG) factories in particular, as also private firms have aptly argued in favour of running their establishments during the lockdown so that they can pay wages and bonuses to their workers. Clearly, the emphasis is on minimising economic bleeding as much as possible. Small traders and entrepreneurs, however, are left in the lurch.

When the majority of the people are incurring losses, except the select rich, in monetary terms, the case of the worst losers receives hardly any attention in the hullabaloo. The county's 40 million students constituting a quarter of the population have already lost 13 months of their academic year and there is no knowing how prolonged will disconnect from classroom be for the learners, particularly the child learners.

A research group of the Azim Premji Foundation, Bangalore, carried out a field study to assess the loss of foundational literacy and numeracy of students from clas-2 to class-6. Of all the learners, this elementary group was found to have lost foundational abilities or in other words regressed with the most adverse consequences during their adult life. Their loss of learning is not only the curricula learning that they would have acquired but also the loss of what they had already learnt. A vast majority of children were outside of the pale of even the inadequate alternative learning process. The study conducted on 16,067 students of 1,137 public schools in 44 districts across five states of India, arrived at the conclusion of the highly damaging learning losses suffered by the child learners. It is unlikely to be any different for students of the same group in Bangladesh.

Online classes ---often carried out perfunctorily -in the form of mobile phone-based and television-based are a poor substitute for classroom teaching. Children from poor and vulnerable families in Bangladesh have not only had no access to online facilities but even were forced to look for complementary income in order to tide over the critical time.

The Azim Premzi Foundation's study focused on assessment of four specific abilities each in language and mathematics for students from classes 2-6. The four abilities are considered to be the abilities for all subsequent learning. Loss of any one of those has serious far-reaching consequences on further learning. This is alarming because a generation will proceed on to secondary, higher secondary and tertiary education with yawning deficiencies or weaknesses in foundational abilities.

It was found that '92 per cent of children lost on an average at least one specific language ability from the previous year across all classes. Similarly, '82 per cent of children on an average have lost at least one mathematical ability from the previous year across all classes'. The kind of forgetting or regression is due mainly to their absence in the practice or a lack of usage of language or mathematical problems.        

If children cannot describe a picture in simple language now which they could before the closure of the school, it means they have regressed. In the same way, if they forget addition, subtraction, multiplication or division they learnt before the closure of school and now fail to do so after more than a year, the loss will count as regression and promotion to the next class will put them in a more difficult situation.

Now the question is: is there any way of helping them recover the loss suffered? One thing is clear that like governments elsewhere, the Bangladesh government also is more concerned with the health emergency and economic recovery. These two issues are, moreover, interlinked. Without achieving herd immunity, economy cannot be driven on full gear. But neglecting the generational loss will be even more pernicious. According to the World Bank, 70 per cent vaccination coverage ---the cutting point where herd immunity is possible ---in Bangladesh will be achieved by the end of 2022.

So how can the younger learners be helped to recover their losses? The job is gargantuan, no doubt, but given the sense of purpose and dedication it is quite possible. Villages all over the country are mostly free from coronavirus. If the local community, teachers and college and university students now staying at their village home are engaged in imparting lessons under a crash programme, the loss of fundamental abilities in question can be regained.

However, to do so, there is a need for adequate allocation of money. Those involved with the preparation of a teaching manual and teaching at the grass-roots level will have to be given incentive remunerations. Even a voluntary corps of teaching staff will have to be raised for helping children from the vulnerable families and in far flung areas. Vulnerable families will have to be even helped with the wherewithal for survival. As for urban children, parents with help from teachers through digital devices can take the responsibility of getting over any learning regression.

 

[email protected]

 

 

With the second wave of the pandemic looking more ominous than the first, the plan for opening up of educational institutions cannot but be deferred, most likely indefinitely. Last year's lockdown was passed as a general holiday but this time no such euphemism has been used probably to put the message across that the situation is worse now. But the timing of the surge of death and infection has compelled people to defy the threat of the pandemic.

Industries and factories, readymade garment (RMG) factories in particular, as also private firms have aptly argued in favour of running their establishments during the lockdown so that they can pay wages and bonuses to their workers. Clearly, the emphasis is on minimising economic bleeding as much as possible. Small traders and entrepreneurs, however, are left in the lurch.

When the majority of the people are incurring losses, except the select rich, in monetary terms, the case of the worst losers receives hardly any attention in the hullabaloo. The county's 40 million students constituting a quarter of the population have already lost 13 months of their academic year and there is no knowing how prolonged will disconnect from classroom be for the learners, particularly the child learners.

A research group of the Azim Premji Foundation, Bangalore, carried out a field study to assess the loss of foundational literacy and numeracy of students from clas-2 to class-6. Of all the learners, this elementary group was found to have lost foundational abilities or in other words regressed with the most adverse consequences during their adult life. Their loss of learning is not only the curricula learning that they would have acquired but also the loss of what they had already learnt. A vast majority of children were outside of the pale of even the inadequate alternative learning process. The study conducted on 16,067 students of 1,137 public schools in 44 districts across five states of India, arrived at the conclusion of the highly damaging learning losses suffered by the child learners. It is unlikely to be any different for students of the same group in Bangladesh.

Online classes ---often carried out perfunctorily -in the form of mobile phone-based and television-based are a poor substitute for classroom teaching. Children from poor and vulnerable families in Bangladesh have not only had no access to online facilities but even were forced to look for complementary income in order to tide over the critical time.

The Azim Premzi Foundation's study focused on assessment of four specific abilities each in language and mathematics for students from classes 2-6. The four abilities are considered to be the abilities for all subsequent learning. Loss of any one of those has serious far-reaching consequences on further learning. This is alarming because a generation will proceed on to secondary, higher secondary and tertiary education with yawning deficiencies or weaknesses in foundational abilities.

It was found that '92 per cent of children lost on an average at least one specific language ability from the previous year across all classes. Similarly, '82 per cent of children on an average have lost at least one mathematical ability from the previous year across all classes'. The kind of forgetting or regression is due mainly to their absence in the practice or a lack of usage of language or mathematical problems.        

If children cannot describe a picture in simple language now which they could before the closure of the school, it means they have regressed. In the same way, if they forget addition, subtraction, multiplication or division they learnt before the closure of school and now fail to do so after more than a year, the loss will count as regression and promotion to the next class will put them in a more difficult situation.

Now the question is: is there any way of helping them recover the loss suffered? One thing is clear that like governments elsewhere, the Bangladesh government also is more concerned with the health emergency and economic recovery. These two issues are, moreover, interlinked. Without achieving herd immunity, economy cannot be driven on full gear. But neglecting the generational loss will be even more pernicious. According to the World Bank, 70 per cent vaccination coverage ---the cutting point where herd immunity is possible ---in Bangladesh will be achieved by the end of 2022.

So how can the younger learners be helped to recover their losses? The job is gargantuan, no doubt, but given the sense of purpose and dedication it is quite possible. Villages all over the country are mostly free from coronavirus. If the local community, teachers and college and university students now staying at their village home are engaged in imparting lessons under a crash programme, the loss of fundamental abilities in question can be regained.

However, to do so, there is a need for adequate allocation of money. Those involved with the preparation of a teaching manual and teaching at the grass-roots level will have to be given incentive remunerations. Even a voluntary corps of teaching staff will have to be raised for helping children from the vulnerable families and in far flung areas. Vulnerable families will have to be even helped with the wherewithal for survival. As for urban children, parents with help from teachers through digital devices can take the responsibility of getting over any learning regression.

 

[email protected]

 

 

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