With the school shutting down in March due to Covid-19, India has seen a major learning setback for all students, mainly the younger ones.
School shutdown has only increased disparities in learning and achievement among India’s children. According to the data provided by Square Panda India, out of the 240 million children in India aged between 0-8 years, 74% or 178 million, live in rural areas. Millions of children are at risk of not reaching their full potential because of inadequate nutrition, lack of early stimulation, learning and nurturing care, and exposure to stress.
In India, the ECCE system is built around an in-class experience and provides a level playing field for all. Private preschools train their teachers extensively, invest in broadband internet and devices, and focus on curriculum design. They also lay a lot of emphasis on gamification among students. However, many schools are also the hub for support systems such as school meals, mental health counselling and childcare when it comes to public education.
With preschools shut, students were pushed into online learning from home. In many homes, especially of low-income families, students do not access to the internet, electronic devices to attend their classes from and a dedicated, quiet place to study. This has deepened the learning losses.
Loss of Learning during the Pandemic, a study initiated by the Azim Premji Foundation in February 2021, covered 16,067 children in 1,137 public schools across five states from Class 2-6. The study revealed some startling findings: it stated that an average of 92% of children across classes have lost at least one language ability from the previous year. Moreover, 82% of children across all classes have lost at least one mathematical ability from the previous year.
Cognitive psychology suggests that without practice, children are most susceptible to forgetting facts and procedural skills. And they have very little learning practice at the moment as they have lost one whole academic year and could probably lose another year too. Tracy Cardoz, educationist at SquarePanda India, said, “It is important to note that these studies only assess the short-term impact of the lockdown; and at this point, we cannot fully understand the long-term, detrimental consequences of the lockdown on children’s wellbeing.”
It has become extremely imperative to develop prevention programs to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on children’s psychological wellbeing.
However, there is a silver lining. Ed-tech organisations and private entities have joined hands with various state governments to mitigate this learning crisis by investing in various key stakeholders of the early childhood care and education (ECCE) space.
Chhattisgarh’s Bastar district, in July 2021, initiated a first-of-its-kind teacher training programme with a sharp focus on English Language Proficiency training. The programme aims to train 750 teachers in language skills, including grammar for academic, personal and professional purposes, and developing competence and confidence in the usage of English in and beyond the classroom. Structured to deliver instruction in the most engaging way possible, the English Language Proficiency programme will take teachers through the entire learning cycle — active experimentation, reflection, conceptualisation and application.
The programme’s objectives resonate with the objectives of NEP 2020, which highlights the need to up-skill educators, making them future-ready, equipping them with technical know-how and language acquisition skills to promote lifelong learning. It will be implemented and executed by Square Panda India, an ed-tech innovator whose data-driven pedagogy is designed towards creating impact at a large scale while providing measurable learning outcomes.
Ashish Jhalani, MD, Square Panda India, shares “The Chhattisgarh government has recognised the value of a multilingual population and understood that empowering our educators is the first step to ensuring early learners attain essential foundational literacy and numeracy skills. This program is a demonstration of our commitment to working alongside the authorities as we seek to heighten educators’ knowledge of English and foster stronger language acquisition outcomes among students.”