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Foundational knowledge of students weakened during pandemic: Parliamentary committee

Foundational knowledge of students weakened during pandemic: Parliamentary committee

A parliamentary panel has noted that the loss of learning of over a year would necessarily have weakened the foundational knowledge of students, especially in Mathematics, Sciences and Languages. Schools have been shut down for the most part since March 2020 due to the onset of the pandemic.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, Women, Children, Youth and Sports, headed by Vinay P Sahasrabuddhe, in its report "Plans to bridge the learning gap caused due to school lockdown as well as review of online and offline instructions and exams and plans for reopening of schools", has noted that the learning loss is likely to impair cognitive capabilities of students. The report was tabled in the parliament on Friday.

"The learning loss of more than one year would necessarily have weakened the foundational knowledge of the students, especially in the subjects of mathematics, sciences and languages at school level. This learning loss is a big deficit and is likely to impair the cognitive capabilities of students," the report reads.

"This might have a debilitating effect on vulnerable sections of the society like poor and rural students, marginalised sections of society and young women who might have been unable to connect to any form of digital education during the pandemic. This needs to be addressed, and immediate remedial steps required to be taken," the report said.

School closure has jeopardised children's learning, nutrition, mental health, and overall development. Some students, particularly girls, might not return to school either.

"In fact, long closure of schools will lead to children not returning to schools and potential for children getting engaged in labour and early marriage. Therefore, the immediate need is to bring children back to school," the report said.

As the digital model of education is here to stay even after the pandemic subsides, efforts must be made to empower schools and students technologically. Additional funds may also be allocated for the purpose as per requirement, the committee noted.

"The committee recommends that a comprehensive assessment to collect data of the post-COVID situation leading to the learning loss due to school lockdown may be under taken by the Department of School Education and Literacy to cover the areas of concern," it said.

In order to meet similar scenarios in the future, a credible, fair, transparent system of continuous assessment must be devised and implemented when physical classes recommence, the panel recommended.

"This system should be over and above the final board examinations and would aid in helping students, and teachers get a correct perspective of their learning curve and course correct wherever required. Guidelines for internal assessment, practicals, project work, particularly for Classes 10 and 12, be formulated and circulated for strict implementation in every school at the Centre and in States and UTs, be it government, government-aided or private, in order to ensure objective and uniform standard of assessment across the country," the panel report said.

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