Education was one of the many sectors that took a hit during COVID-19. Many countries, including India, had to close down schools and colleges and encouraged online classes. The pandemic highlighted class irregularities as its effects did not bode well on people who were already oppressed and marginalized in the pre-pandemic world.
World Bank's Global Director of Education named Jaime Saavedra, raised concern stating that India's 'learning poverty' has shot up to 70%, worsening the post-pandemic effects on the country's education infrastructure. Despite them not being official numbers, they are the results of initial observations and analysis of where the country stands in this sector.
Worrying Increase In 'Learning Poverty'
The World Bank defines' learning poverty' as a child's inability to read a simple text by 10. "Reading is a gateway for learning as the child progresses through school - and conversely, an inability to read slams that gate shut. Beyond this, when the child cannot read, it's usually a clear indication that the school systems are not well-organized to help children learn in other areas such as math, science and humanities," said the renowned financial institution.
Further, it quotes that many children globally cannot read proficiently. Over 260 million children do not go to school, further deepening the crisis. Learning Poverty is mainly found in developing countries, including India. According to an EduAnalytics report by the World Bank in 2019, 55% of children in the country at late primary age are not able to read correctly. The problem worsened during COVID-19 as observations suggest a 20% increase.
Saavedra said to The Hindu, "With the pandemic, the learning poverty rate has shot up from 54% to 70%. We see the COVID-19 impact in all countries, but much more where closures have been the longest such as in South Asia and Latin America."
Need Of The Hour
Last week, the Global Director was in India, where he spoke to the Education Minister, Dharmendra Pradhan, about the efforts to bridge the concerning gaps. Also, he met the governments of Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat to review the mitigation methods. One of the current needs of the hour is the reopening of schools around the country. "The first action is to open schools. Most countries by now have done so, but still, some have opened partially. However, the reopening of schools does not automatically mean kids are coming back," Saavedra adds further.
The sudden school closure in 2020 proved to be a significant hurdle in a child's learning progress. So much so that many of them had to drop out as the closures were prolonged. Therefore, it can be challenging to convince them to re-enrol and start afresh. Further, Jaime Saavedra also suggests ramping up catch-up learnings and brushing up on the fundamentals so that the children can revise them. "The teachers will require a lot of support to group students within the classroom not according to the grade or age, but according to where they are," he explains.