BENGALURU: With schools shut since early March and online classes sporadic at best, educationists have expressed fears that there could be a huge learning gap and suggested curated reopening of the institutions so that children could return to substantive schooling experience.
The expert committee formed by the Karnataka government to look into online classes for children made a bouquet of suggestions — TV, radio, online, community schooling and sending worksheets home. The government has started TV classes only for the high school section yet.
Rishikesh BS, associate professor with Azim Premji University, quoting researches, said school students in the US have fallen behind their expected learning levels due to the virus disruptions. In the Indian context, he suggested that the decision of reopening of schools should be made at village or taluk level — “certainly not from Bengaluru” — depending on parameters like the risk of infection, levels of interaction and open spaces available.
Experts suggest curated reopening of institutions
‘Long gaps in learning could be disastrous’
He said, “Thousands of schools in interiors of Karnataka are within protective bubbles, which are safe. In such areas, a curated opening with batches and for a few days of the week could be made.”
According to VP Niranjanaradhya, centre for child and law, National Law School of India University, there are reports of children dropping out of schools and accompanying parents to work as labourers. “If we do not start some sort of a mechanism now, then we’ll pay a heavy price,” he added. He, too, said that each school should be given the autonomy to identify the means (online classes or staggered reopening) best suited to them. “This can start with rural schools untouched by the pandemic who can opt for some of the measures suggested by the government committee,” he added.
If the rhythm is lost, getting these children back to classes is a challenge, agreed Ashvini Ranjan, managing trustee, Pratham Mysore. “We are preparing a programme to involve the whole family to help engage the child in studies that can be shared through WhatsApp. An NGO has limitations. It’s up to the government to come up with a wholesome plan,” he said. Long gaps in learning could be disastrous. Rishikesh of Azim Premji University explained: “A McKinsey study states the hurt due to the learning loss could last a lifetime. It’s proven that the negative impact is greatest for the disadvantaged communities. Scholars at Brown, Harvard and Virginia University suggest that the drop in learning gains could be as high as a third of the expected scores in reading and more than half of the expected progress in Math.”
Ravi Narayan Chakrakodi, professor, Regional Institute of English, said teachers should make learning material accessible to children wherever they are, design interesting tasks that enable learning on one’s own, through peer and parental support and monitor their performance remotely. “They must plan creative ways of engaging students to ensure learning continues,” he said.
Schools shut for 4 months, experts fear learning gap
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