It cannot be business as usual once schools reopen: Report
With lower primary schools closed from March 2020 due to the pandemic, various studies and surveys, including the ASER report published on Monday, have highlighted learning loss among students.
While the government and school managements are under pressure from a section of stakeholders to resume physical classes for lower primary students, a paper published by the Azim Premji Foundation has stated that it could not be ‘business as usual’ once schools reopen.
There is a need for changes in the curriculum with a reduction in curricular load, stated the report released on Tuesday. Titled, Open Schools, Focus on Recovering Lost Learning: Clear Voice of Teachers, the report is based on a field study in August 2021, covering 363 primary school teachers across five States in India.
Around 56% of teachers surveyed felt initial teaching-learning should focus only on recovery of learning loss, while 57% of them felt changes in teaching-learning processes would be needed.
The study took into account the impact of school closure on the learning levels of children and also sought the opinion of teachers on what needs to be done once schools reopen. According to the survey, 96% of teachers said that once schools reopen there is a need to assess children on abilities from the previous years (2019–20 and 2020–21), rather than just focus on abilities of the current academic year (2021–22).
One of the recommendations the authors have made is that once schools reopen, there needs to be “changes in the curriculum, with a reduction in curricular load to align with foundational abilities, along with a conscious, meticulously planned focus on foundational literacy and numeracy”.
The report also stated that once schools reopen, teaching should be informed of the learning level of each child in the class and not be defined by the regular curriculum.
Batting for the need to tweak the curriculum, a member of the field research team of the foundation said that teaching the regular curriculum would assume that children have not forgotten their foundational abilities and regular learning has taken place during the pandemic period.
Teachers said that this assessment must form the basis for planning learning with the intent to help students recover learning loss and bring them on a par with their class-level expectations. They also acknowledged that regular assessments will be required to keep track of their learning. The team which conducted the study said that it should not be “mindless assessment” but an assessment with a purpose.
Another finding of the paper was that teachers could address the learning loss with autonomy and support from the administration. “All other steps, including curricular and pedagogical changes, will not be useful unless teachers are given sufficient time to work on recovering learning loss in their respective classrooms,” the paper noted.