Neerva (name changed) was a quick learner and mingled with classmates in her Senior KG but when she went to Class 1 in 2020 the pandemic forced schools to shut down and switch to online teaching. Like most kids, she found it hard to cops. By the end of the academic year of Class 2 in 2021 her performance has dipped. She struggles with basic multiplications, forcing teachers to put her in the remedial classes and re-start studies from Class 1.

Aarav (name changed) was an overactive child. With parents working in jobs, he was finding it difficult to channelise his energy properly and focus on the online classes. His learning trouble in Class 1 shot up so much that he had to be put on medication to calm him and stay focussed.

Pandemic and online teaching have taken a toll on learning among children. This is fairly well-known by now, with many reports globally pointing out the consequences like poor grasp- communication, concentration skills among kids in the absence of school teaching. However, it has been especially difficult for children who just started off studies with admission in Class 1 in 2020 and will now go on to Class 3 in 2022. These kids have barely gone to school, if at all.

Primary schools in the city have remained open for not more than 40 days owing to Covid restrictions. On average, the odd-even day formula and 50% maximum strength in a class has allowed students to attend school for more than 25 days in 2021, and none in 2020, against 180 to 220 school days in a normal year.

Special educator Debaleena Behal, who carried out an analysis on learning loss among Class 1-5 students, found that as many as 45% students from a typical class had very critical or critical stage learning loss, as against a normal of 3 students per class.

Principal of DAV International School, Nivedita Ganguly, said of 40 students surveyed, 18 were found with tier-3 (very critical) and tier-2 (critical state) of learning loss.

What we found out was even more concerning. Sampled children were okay with the audio process in online teaching. They understood if teachers read out questions to them. However, not many students could understand things while reading by themselves due to visual process challenges. This is so because they are learning by listening on TV or other screens, unlike in school where they are involved themselves equally, she said.

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Many academics said that tiny-tots have limited capacity to remain focused on learning via the screen. They did not get school teaching, which brings with it learning from teachers, peer to peer learning or picking up social skills, resulting in a major learning loss.

We have to keep a constant check on students’ learning during online classes. We realise that more students may now need remedial classes to bring them to par with their age/ class level learning, compared to previous years, said Vidhi Bose, vice principal of primary section in Udgam School for Children.

Dhaval Tripathi, parent of a child who passed Class 2, said one of the biggest drawbacks of online teaching is minimal contact with teachers and classmates, unlike in schools. Children now lack self-confidence that comes from attending school, doing activities and practice in school, he said.

Tripathi said, his kid has not met teachers enough to know and understand what a teacher is. Because of this, there are discipline issues and some lack of respect. They don’t mind shutting off screens while the class is on, have snacks or doze off even when teachers are teaching.

Mrugen Shah, principal of Prakash Higher Secondary School, said children will find it difficult to adapt with the school environment when normal studies resume. Absence of physical classes has resulted in kids not knowing what is sharing, interacting outside homes or their limited circle. We will have to work hard to change their introverted approach to being normal and outgoing, he said.

After taking stock of the prevailing Covid-19 situation, the Gujarat government has decided to continue online teaching in Classes 1-9 till February 5. A Core Committee meeting led by Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel on Monday decided to not reopen schools keeping students’ safety in mind.

A decision whether to open schools will be taken. Education Minister Jitu Vaghani told reporters that after reviewing the situation on Monday, they decided to continue online teaching in these sections till February 5.

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