Bhubaneswar/New Delhi, July 6: A group of civil society organizations have launched a national campaign on education titled “Hamari Maang: Achha School, Sudharatmak Shiksha”. The mission 3-5-8 aims towards activating the education system in all states of India to bridge these learning outcomes and ensuring that government provides basic infrastructure in all primary schools. They aim to achieve the same by Independence Day.
Odisha Shramajeebee Mancha; Mahila Shramajeebee Mancha, Odisha; Sonbhadra Vikas Sangathan, Uttar Pradesh; Jan Adhikar Kendra, Bihar; Dalit Adivasi Manch, Chhattisgarh; and Ideal youth, health and welfare society, Delhi are leading this campaign in collaboration with Atmashakti Trust.
The primary and secondary data indicates a huge gap in learning outcomes of the students of classes 3/5/8. Using the current situation as an opportunity as schools are closed, there should be a national-level effort to bridging the gaps by August 15. Also, policymakers should ensure an effective ongoing remedial system so that these gaps are minimized in future.
The COVID-19 pandemic has entrenched structural imbalances between rural and urban areas and has had a critical impact on children’s education, particularly of those from marginalized sections.
“Children, mostly from the poor-families, who study in government-run schools, are the worst sufferers as their learning has taken a pause. Though state governments have offered several online classes, both teachers and students are facing challenges as there is an absence of physical classrooms and proper digital infrastructure. The disparity in access from smartphones, computer, electricity and internet connections also pose a challenge to mitigate the learning gap”, says Mr Anjan Pradhan, Convener of Odisha Shramajeebee Mancha.
The data from Niti Ayog and ASER indicates the fact that there is a huge learning outcome defect across all students enrolled in a government school. Whereas the reasons for this are manifold — poor infrastructure, teacher absence, poor quality of teaching, irregular student attendance, etc.
According to the Annual School Education Report (ASER) 2019, only 16% of children in Class 1 in 26 surveyed rural districts can read the text at the prescribed level, while almost 40% cannot even recognize letters.
The difference is starker in case of internet access. In states like Delhi, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Uttarakhand, more than 40% of households have access to the internet. The share is less than 20% for Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal.
The most disturbing factor for our children is that their learnings have already taken a halt since the last three months. With the existing digital divide, relying only on online education will push the have-nots out of the education system, which will be accumulating inequity in educational outcomes.
The Odisha government has introduced remedial classes for its students and claiming that the initiative will benefit over 40 lakh students in the State. Still, ground reports claim that the effort is not working as per the expectations, due to many factors. The Economic Survey 2018-19 says that out of a total 51,311 villages, about 11,000 villages (more than 20%) in the state do not have mobile connectivity. Similarly, Odisha has just 28.22 internet subscribers for a population of 100, compared to the national average of 38.02.
“Online education can supplement towards bridging the learning gap, but it cannot replace the classroom, because one to one interactions among peers and teachers is very important for learning”, says Mr Manoj Samantaray who is involved in the research study on the student’s learning outcome assessment in Odisha.
“The campaign will strategize efforts to engage multiple stakeholders including the government, media, civil society organizations, school management committees and parents and will bring forth education issues of the children so that remedial classes are conducted effectively, and other infrastructure development initiatives are taken up by the state governments in war-footing measures”, he added.
The pandemic has adversely affected everyone’s life. However, if there is even a small opportunity during this pandemic to work on improving the education of the children of the marginalized section of the society, we strongly recommend the government to take the initiative and use this lockdown period to engage in improving the quality of education.