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Saturday, September 25, 2021

Learning takes hit in pandemic year: ASER

This is the first survey to indicate how learning levels among school-going children have been impacted because of schools being shut during the pandemic. The study was conducted in March 2021 among 18,385 children between the ages of 5 and 16 across 24 districts of Karnataka.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: September 7, 2021 7:40:24 pm
In Bengaluru on Monday. (PTI)

After a year-and-a-half of Covid-enforced school closures come findings that confirm the worst fears: reading and numeracy skills among children have taken a big hit, especially among students in primary classes.

The latest Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), conducted in March this year in rural Karnataka, shows that in the two years between 2018 and now, the percentage of students in Class 4, for example, who cannot recognise even a letter in Kannada, went from 5.1% in 2018 to 12% in 2020. For students in Class I, this percentage dipped from 40.3% in 2018 to 56.8% in 2020.

This is the first survey to indicate how learning levels among school-going children have been impacted because of schools being shut during the pandemic. The study was conducted in March 2021 among 18,385 children between the ages of 5 and 16 across 24 districts of Karnataka.

“Although the original plan was to conduct this exercise in several states, it could successfully be completed in only one state, Karnataka, before the second wave of COVID hit the country,” said ASER Centre in a press release.

The survey shows learning losses have been particularly acute among children in primary sections.

The highest level of text given in the ASER reading assessment is from Class 2. Only 9.8% children in Class 3 in both government and private schools could read the text, down from 18.3% in 2014. This dip is sharper for private schools — from 23.3% in 2014 to 9.9% now.

The learning loss was less acute in higher classes, an indication that reading and numeracy skills set in in the primary years. Among Class 8 students, for instance, the learning loss in terms of reading fell from 70.6% in 2014 to 66.4% in 2020.

Numeracy skills were impacted too. For example, the percentage of children in Class 1 who cannot recognise digits between 1 and 9 went up from 29.7% in 2014 to 42.6% in 2020. For Class 5 students, this figure was 2.3% in 2014 and now stands at 4.6%.

The percentage of Class 4 students who can do simple division went down from 12.1% to 3.6% in the same period.

The findings from the survey offer crucial pointers for a possible roadmap as schools reopen after more than a full academic year.

“The findings show that when children get back to school, we must enable them to learn to read and do basic arithmetic. We should not worry about grades and curriculum right now. Without a solid foundation, children cannot progress toward curricular expectations,” Rukmini Banerji, CEO, Pratham, the organisation that conducts the ASER survey, told The Indian Express.

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