Take up special programmes to overcome learning loss in pandemic

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

After health and economy, the biggest blow dealt by corona pandemic was to the education sector. Because of the pandemic, educational institutes in Bangladesh were unprecedentedly kept closed for 543 days at a stretch.

According to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), almost 40 million students were left outside of the classrooms at the time.

Effects of the visible and invisible damages that have been inflicted upon education as a whole and a generation of students for the educational programmes remaining closed for a prolonged period, certainly are far-reaching.

Although attempts were made to keep the education programmes running during the corona period in alternative ways by radio, television and online media, students suffered learning losses for the lack of coordinated planning, awareness and scope to access technology.

Educationists, too, have warned about the learning losses and have advised students to overcome that.

But the education department till now hasn’t taken any visible initiative in this regard. Though late, the matter of students’ learning loss during corona period finally came up in a government study.

Prothom Alo’s report states that National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) with assistance of the European Union conducted a study on the learning loss of more than 18,000 primary level students from across the country.

Students’ learning rates from before and after the corona period have been compared there. The study has revealed that educational institutes remaining shut for a prolonged period during the corona pandemic has affected class-five students most, among those on the primary level.

Students of primary schools had already been suffering from learning losses; the corona pandemic has just amplified that even further.

The study claimed the reason behind learning losses is that students from all regions couldn’t participate evenly in the programmes that had been launched for holding classes on television, radio and online in alternative ways, since direct teaching in the classroom was stopped.

For example, the study result shows that Class 5 students had an average of about 49 per cent learning achievement rate in English prior to corona. This rate has come down to 36 per cent as an effect of closure during corona time.

The research has been conducted on compulsory subjects like Bengali, English and mathematics. Needless to say that students’ learning loss during corona period on the whole is way more than just that.

The issue of students’ learning loss is just one aspect; the damage suffered by the education sector during corona pandemic is even more extensive and multifaceted.

Data of the school census conducted by the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education in 2022 says that, about 8,000 educational institutions have shut down in the country between 2021 and 2022, in this one year.

In the census from the previous year, the number of educational institutions reduced by almost 14,000. Majority of the educational institutions that have closed down, are private schools and kindergartens.  

So many schools closing down within just two years, is an ominous sign. This hints at the number of primary school students declining.

The major gap, created in the educational programme by the fact that students could not come to the classrooms for one and a half years during the corona pandemic, cannot be ignored in any way.

Because of this long break, students from different levels are studying in the same class. It was necessary to identify the level for each student right at beginning of schools being reopened and to take necessary steps for overcome their learning loss. But that did not happen.

NCTB’s research report has stated that, students’ loss and lacking need to be recovered immediately, otherwise it might result in a less skilled generation.

We believe, when the issue of students’ learning loss during corona period has been acknowledged in the study done by a government agency, then initiatives to overcome that have to be taken without wasting any time.

Special programme and planning are needed so that for students can overcome the learning losses.