Tuesday, Sep 27, 2022
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Covid-19's Lasting Impact On Education: Kids Return To School But 50% Not Up To Learning Mark

In India, the pandemic rendered schools shut for the most part of two years and forced students to switch to online education, the impact of the pandemic has been concerning.

Representational Image
Representational Image PTI

According to a new survey on learning loss and education recovery, less than 50 percent of children are able to catch up with their age-appropriate learning following the Covid-19 pandemic and tend to get distracted more easily.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant negative impact on children’s education across the world. In India, the pandemic rendered schools shut for the most part of two years and forced students to switch to online education, the impact of the pandemic has been concerning. With schools reopening and regular classes returning with a decline in Covid -19, surveys are revealing a wide gap in the learning of students affected by the lockdowns.

According to a new survey on learning loss and education recovery, less than 50 percent of children are able to catch up with their age-appropriate learning following the Covid-19 pandemic and tend to get distracted more easily.

The survey, which included 48,000 students and was carried out by the Smile India foundation of India, covered urban, rural and aspirational districts of 22 states. As per its findings,  teachers in schools and educational institutions state that less than 50 percent of children have been able to cope with the learning loss over the last two years and are able to catch up on their age-appropriate learning currently," it said.

These students include previously well-performing students prior to the pandemic as well. The survey bringing all students at par with their expected learning level will require some time and effort in the upcoming months.

Easily distracted, lacking in social skills

The socialization process that children go through at school not only helps them study and learn new things but also forms habits and personalities that stay with them for the rest of their lives. In these aspects, the survey found that 58 per cent of teachers believed children have missed out on social skills and now get distracted easily. A majority of teachers also felt that their attention span has decreased.

Studies have shown that brief breaks in education can have a lasting impact on the child’s memory and recall. Some of the most common effects of the pandemic and the prolonged closure of schools include inattention, clinging, distraction, and hesitancy or fear to ask questions, especially about the pandemic. Such effects are seen most in children who have been unable to access the full gamut of online education due to economic or social constraints, causing deep knowledge divides among students. 

Moreover, lack of playtime with peers and interaction with fellow students and teachers in class has affected social skills of children, with younger children showing signs of delays in language and speech abilities. For over nine months after the Covid-19 pandemic worsened in 2022,  the United Nations recorded over 330 million youngsters were stuck at home, leading to several mental health issues that if left unaddressed can hinder the growth and development of the child in the long run.

While online education became the only way to connect children to teachers and schools during the pandemic, education researchers and sociologists as well as behavioural and child psychologists and pediatricians have long debated the impact of online learning as the only mode of education, especially in younger children. 

Changes in parental behaviour

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed not just students but also parents. The Smile Foundation survey noted that parents in India started getting more involved in their wards' education since the pandemic. Nearly 47 percent of the parents felt there was increase in interaction between them and teachers in schools as well as over phone calls, 37 per cent of parents started interacting with teachers by visiting schools, there has been a 27 per cent increase in attendance in parent-teacher meetings (PTMs), the study noted.

Fifty per cent of parents interviewed felt the absence of digital learning resources like devices, networks, and data packs made the learning experience inadequate for the children during the pandemic," the survey said.

Thirty-one per cent of parents' most preferred mode of learning during the pandemic was direct classes in offline mode or cluster classes, it said, adding: "Twenty per cent felt worksheets and visits by teachers were very convenient and useful."

Parental supervision and understanding of the ills and benefits of online learning can go a long way in helping students navigate the world of learning through machines and internet, which can pose several threats to a young child including cyber crime, video and gaming addiction. 

Not all parents share similar attitude toward online education. A study by Chinese scholars titled ‘Young children’s online learning during COVID-19 pandemic: Chinese parents’ beliefs and attitudes’ noted that a majority of parents in China did not believe in the values and benefits of online learning and preferred traditional learning in early childhood settings.

(With inputs from PTI)

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