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Centre plans survey to assess impact of Covid pandemic on schoolkids

The education ministry is prioritising diagnosis of learning loss and gaps for which a national achievement survey was conducted in November last year covering 35 lakh children. The survey results will be out in April-May.

Written by Ritu Sharma | Ahmedabad |
January 7, 2022 2:48:49 am
covid impact on school chilren

The Union Ministry of Education is planning to conduct an ORF (Oral Reading Fluency) as well as mental health and well-being survey to assess the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on schoolchildren across the country.

“We are going to conduct an ORF survey in 11 languages across the country. It will become one of the largest ORF surveys in the world and will show us how many words a child should read in a minute with comprehension for the purpose of being considered a grade appropriate achiever of the learning outcome,” said Anita Karwal, School Education and Literacy Secretary, Ministry of Education.

ORF is the ability to read connected text quickly, accurately and with expression and is one of the critical components required for successful reading comprehension.

Karwal noted that mental health and well-being have emerged as the prominent challenges not only for students but also for teachers during the pandemic. “People have suffered due to illnesses but children don’t understand why they are locked in houses, why they are not allowed to hug their peers, not permitted to go to school, why there is loss and grief. Physical well-being has also suffered in the process,” Karwal, who was on a panel discussing the impact of Covid-19 on ‘School Education: Challenges and Solutions’, said. The survey has been planned for Classes 3, 5, 8 and 10.

Further, Karwal elaborated on the launch of a pilot project called ‘Skills Hub’. “From January 1, we have initiated a pilot in 1,100 schools across the country, including Gujarat, called ‘Skills Hub’ where the unutilised capacities of schools after school hours are being used to skill children who are either out of school or drop-outs in the 16-30 age group. They will be getting skill certificates and counselling for employment also. If all works well, we will expand it,” Karwal said at the panel discussion held as a part of the International Conference of Academic Institutions (ICAI), a two-day pre-Vibrant Gujarat Summit on education at Science City in Ahmedabad.

Other major challenges the schools face include migration, out-of-school-children, increased drop-out rates, making resources for children with special needs and accessing children in remote areas.

Andreas Schleicher, director-education, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), said pedagogy remains at the centre of technology. “Teachers became users of technology rather than designers of innovative learning experiences and that has not worked really well. Technology intensity in classrooms is negatively related to the quality of learning outcomes… Technology can amplify learning but never replace teachers,” said Andreas.

Initiatives taken by Gujarat, including doorstep delivery of textbooks, use of loudspeakers by teachers to engage children, outreach for girl child, bridge courses, shehri shikshan or open schools, home visits for children with special needs and training parents to support children’s learning were also discussed.

The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) is, meanwhile, involved in adjusting curriculum and pacing it out as per requirements. “NCERT will complete it in January and we will try to focus only on the core essential and learning outcomes that are really required for each stage,” the secretary announced.

The education ministry is prioritising diagnosis of learning loss and gaps for which a national achievement survey was conducted in November last year covering 35 lakh children. The survey results will be out in April-May.

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