In an interview about what he calls a “once in a century crisis” which hasn’t got anywhere near the media attention it requires and deserves, the Vice-Chancellor of the Azim Premji University says schools are struggling to recover the learning students lost during the two years of COVID-19 when schools were either shut or not fully functioning.
Although there are schools where “near complete recovery” has been achieved there are many where there is practically no recovery and many where it is patchy and very incomplete.
Dr Anurag Behar, who is also CEO of the Azim Premji Foundation, said at the heart of the problem lies the fact that children who, for example, were in class 3 when schools shut in March 2020 are now in class 6. But they’ve never been in classes 4 and 5. This means three years of teaching has to be crammed into one. What could make the problem even worse is that, additionally, in many cases a lot of children have forgotten what they were taught in class 3.
Behar cites the example of a class 6 he visited with 16 children.
“Only two of the children can add two-digit numbers, eight can write legibly but only three of them can write even a sentence with minimal cogency. When asked to read what I write, five of them read haltingly, some of the rest recognised letters but a few recognised nothing.”
Of a class 4 he visited in a separate school in another state he says “None of the 13 children could read or write.”
But there was one school, in a third state, where he found “near complete recovery.”
Behar says the best recovery has taken place in schools where the priority has been on recovery and teaching the current year’s syllabus has been deliberately pushed back till recovery is complete. However, in many states and schools the authorities have unilaterally and wrongly declared recovery to have been completed after a mere few weeks and insisted on pressing ahead with teaching the current year’s syllabus. In such cases the children are floundering.
This is a crisis not just for the children concerned, who could number in tens if not hundreds of millions, but for our country because, one day, when they are adults, these children will be running our country yet their education will be incomplete and inadequate. This is also a crisis that is effectively ignored by the media. You don’t read about it in most papers and it is not covered by television.
Watch the full interview here.