What do teachers need to address learning loss?

What do teachers need to address learning loss?

Reopening of schools

For the past 18 months, teachers have been doing everything possible to remain in touch with their students, whether it is home visits, phone calls, online and community classes, and state-specific programmes. 

This close engagement also makes them the best people to suggest what needs to be done, as schools reopen across the country. 

A field study by Azim Premji Foundation in August 2021, which covered 363 primary school teachers across 18 districts in five states, showed the deep concerns of these teachers. 

Specifically, they worry about how they can make up for the loss of learning due to school closures.

Classroom teaching 

Interviews with teachers reveal that many are worried that after being detached from schools for a long time, many students’ relationships with school will have to be rebuilt.

Others worry the curriculum has only been partly covered during the school closure and that students have not only forgotten what they already knew but also have not learnt the curriculum of the classes they have been promoted to since schools closed.    

As schools reopen, a majority of the teachers are of the view that some or most children will need attention for socio-emotional issues, including disconnect from schools and their peers and teachers, discomfort with the online learning processes during school closure, and the stress that they have forgotten what they knew.

Some children might also need counselling.

They may lack self-esteem and confidence as a result of having forgotten what they knew. 

Specific activities like drawing, writing, drama, and play in the initial days of schooling are necessary to slowly ease children into more formal teaching-learning, and to re-establish relationships between teachers and students.   

Curriculum change

The teachers also emphasise that the curriculum will need to change. 

Many recommended a reduction of the curriculum, with a focus on the foundational abilities in language and mathematics. 

These abilities are the basis for further learning and their absence will only cause learning loss to accumulate as children move through schools.

A majority of teachers also want children to be comprehensively assessed on their abilities from previous classes.

They believe that initial teaching-learning should focus only on abilities lost by the children with an emphasis on remedial teaching to aid recovery of learning loss. 

Changes in teaching-learning are also required to cater to the diversity of learning levels in the classroom – some students would have had support at home while others were unable to participate in online classes.  

Rather than class-specific textbooks, diverse teaching-learning materials will be required to cater to the different learning needs of students in the same class.

This survey also indicates the importance of giving teachers the freedom to decide how to proceed, without any external pressure or prescription. 

At the same time, they will need support to deal with the changed curriculum and processes on an ongoing basis. 

Teachers especially requested that they not be given any non-academic work so they can concentrate on their primary task of teaching. 

Anticipating uncertainties over the coming months, they were of the view that continuity of learning must be maintained even if schools reopen and close again. Some measures they recommended were that students be allowed to come in batches to schools for a few hours every day with due precautions, and use of volunteer and teacher-monitored home-based learning.  

The voices of teachers carry the understanding of both their children and classrooms and therefore must inform policy and practice related to reopening schools, as well as decisions on adapting processes to suit the needs of children. 

(The writer is a faculty member at Azim Premji University, Bengaluru)

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