WITH CHILDREN back in school after a long gap, the Centre plans to carry out a nationwide survey among Class 3 students to gauge the extent of learning loss due to interruptions in regular schooling caused by the pandemic.
According to sources in the Union Ministry of Education and the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), the survey, a ‘foundational learning study’, will have a likely sample size of 1.5 lakh and will involve face-to-face interactions of students with specially trained field investigators. The survey, to be carried out in 22 languages, is likely to be held towards the end of March.
The initiative comes at a time when field surveys in Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal led by Pratham Education Foundation have revealed worrying levels of learning gaps, especially among children in lower primary grades. For example, in Chhattisgarh and West Bengal, the percentage of children in Class 3 who could read a Class 2 textbook dropped to 12.3% and 27.7% respectively in 2021, down from 29.8% and 36.6% in 2018. The Centre’s National Achievement Survey (NAS) — held in November 2021 among students of Class 3, 5, 8 and 10 — is also expected to shed light on the learning loss. “But the foundational learning study among children of Class 3 will be different from NAS, which was a written test. The upcoming survey will be completely interactive and face to face. Tests are intimidating for young children. This is designed in a way to assess their foundational learning levels in a playful manner,” a source said.
According to the National Education Policy 2020, over five crore children in the elementary school system lacked the ability to read and comprehend basic text and carry out basic addition and subtraction. A broad consensus, after two years of pandemic-induced interruptions, is that the crisis would have only aggravated.
“The survey will evaluate the literacy as well as numeracy components of foundational learning. At NAS, we look at a child’s ability to comprehend text and solve basic mathematical problems. But the new survey will look at whether a child is equipped with the foundational skills to reach that level of learning. For example, along with basic additions and subtractions, we will see to what extent a child relates the concept of numbers in daily life. Say in reading a clock, calendars or height of an object,” an official said.
NEP 2020 underlines that over 85% of a child’s cumulative brain development occurs before the age of 6, indicating the critical importance of appropriate care and stimulation of the brain in the early years to ensure healthy brain development and growth. Keeping that in mind, the NCERT recently issued a manual for teachers titled “Vidya Pravesh”. It aims to support learning and adjustment of children entering Grade I who may or may not have pre-school experience, particularly “due to the pandemic”. Through a number of activities, the module is geared at helping children pick up foundational literacy and numeracy concepts and develop skills that have “proven to be effective in building a sound foundation for learning in the early primary grades”.