Less than 50% children able to cope with age-appropriate curriculum over past two years: Survey

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New Delhi: Fewer than 50% of children in India have been able to cope with the burden of effective learning over the past two years, as per a survey by Smile Foundation, an NGO working across the education, health, and livelihoods domains.

The survey was conducted by Smile Foundation’s education vertical between May and July 2022, among 48,000 students aged 6-14, across 22 states. The survey covered students across urban and rural areas, and aspirational districts. Apart from the students, 100 teachers, 10 NGO leaders and 500 parents also participated in the survey.

The teachers reckoned that fewer than 50% students were able to cope with the pace and level of learning over the past two years to catch up with age-appropriate curriculum. Not only this, 69% of parents believe children need enhanced support in Math and language to match up to age-appropriate learning levels.

Crucially, Smile Foundation’s survey found that 58% teachers believe students have missed out on developing their social skills and get distracted easily. Half of the parents surveyed felt the absence of digital devices, networks, and data packs was responsible for inadequate learning among children. Around 58% of the parents surveyed had increased their interactions with children in a bid to understand what they learnt in schools because 67% of the parents felt covid-induced school closures hampered their children’s learning.

According to the survey, 54% of 13–14-year-olds cannot read the subject text, and 62% do not know how to write sentences with proper tense and grammar.

Additionally, 63% of 13–14-year-old students are inept at  mathematical reasoning while 58% are unfamiliar with mathematical fractions and age-appropriate geometrical problems.

Speaking about the findings of the survey, Mr. Santanu Mishra, Co-Founder, and Executive Trustee, Smile Foundation said, “Students have been one of the worst affected groups from the pandemic. They have struggled to adapt to different modes of learning because of which there have been gaps in the learning process. This is especially true in the rural areas of the country. Our report ‘Learning Loss and Education Recovery’ brings to light the findings and way forward to address learning loss of school-going children post Covid-19 across the operational locations of Smile Foundation. Such reports inform our social outreach strategy by identifying specific need gaps.”

Among the students surveyed, 59% were from rural areas, 25% were from urban areas, and 16% were from aspirational districts.

The parents of the students expressed difficulty in overcoming challenges posed by the pandemic, to ensure the continued education for their wards. This was due to factors like loss of employment, financial crises, restrictions on movement to ensure safety and health. Most of the parents were unable to guide their children at studies due to their own educational limitations, absence of proper learning facilities, along with their daily struggle to sustain themselves and their families.

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