Learnings from States and NGOs on dealing with the foundational learning crisis
By The EDge Editorial Team
Mar 27, 2020
Foundational learning among children refers to their ability to read with meaning and solve basic arithmetic problems. A strong foundation is imperative for students to be able to learn in higher classes and acquire relevant skills like critical thinking and problem solving to succeed in the long run. The draft National Education Policy (NEP) 2019 anticipates that 10 crore students will drop-out of the education system if the learning gaps are not plugged urgently.
“By 2025, all children will gain foundational literacy and numeracy skills by the time they are in class 3,” said Ms. Anita Karwal, chairperson of the Central Board of Secondary Education at the Nexus of Good, a conference organized by the Nexus of Good Foundation, Central Square Foundation, and FICCI Arise. “CBSE aims to bridge the foundational learning gap. Foundational learning will be taken in a mission mode by a shift towards twenty-first century skills and competencies like critical thinking and problem solving,” she added.
Foundational learning among children refers to their ability to read with meaning and solve basic arithmetic problems. A strong foundation is imperative for students to be able to learn in higher classes and acquire relevant skills like critical thinking and problem solving to succeed in the long run. The draft National Education Policy (NEP) 2019 anticipates that 10 crore students will drop-out of the education system if the learning gaps are not plugged urgently. The conference was organised “to go beyond ideas as we ideate from good practices and help good work to scale up,” said Anil Swarup, Founder-Chairman of the Nexus of Good Foundation. It was to discuss effective solutions that can help tackle the foundational learning crisis in India and deliberate upon how they can be implemented at scale.
CBSE is taking substantial measures towards bridging the gaps in foundational learning, Karwal said. “Tools and resources are being identified including focused teacher training on foundational literacy and numeracy and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) for teachers to build competency-based test items and competency-based teaching in classrooms.”
It is also important to focus on Early Childhood Education to ensure children are able to acquire foundational skills when they enter school. Pre-primary education plays a key role in making children school-ready. A large number of children between the ages of three to six are enrolled in anganwadis across the country. However, the focus in anganwadis has been on meeting the children’s health and nutritional needs as part of its Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) as a result of which pre-school education takes a backseat.
We are currently considering introducing another individual in each anganwadi besides the primary care-giver who would be responsible to provide pre-school educationMr. Ajay Tirkey, the Special Secretary at the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare
Attaining foundational literacy and numeracy for all children is no mean feat. Aligning CBSE or anganwadis with the draft NEP’s vision of achieving foundational learning by 2025 are pieces to solving the puzzle. The Centre, states, and civil society organizations working in the domain of education all need to be on the same page about prioritizing foundational learning, and work together towards it. The conference also provided a platform for state officials and representatives of non-profit organizations to discuss the innovative ways in which they are taking the learning crisis head-on given the respective needs and requirements within states.
Uttar Pradesh: The state of Uttar Pradesh has launched ‘Mission Prerna’ with the aim of transforming elementary education in the state. The mission to achieve foundational learning will potentially help 1.8 crore students in 1.6 lakh schools across the state’s 75 districts. Vijay Kiran Anand, Director General, School Education at the Department of Basic Education in Uttar Pradesh, spoke about ‘Prerna Lakshyas’ – the metrics to assess learning outcomes in Hindi and Maths at par with grade-level learning each year till children reach Class 5. He also emphasized on how the state has mobilized the system right from the block level and upwards to achieve these metrics.
From identifying over 4,000 teachers who can support and supervise other teachers across the state, to focused teacher training on how to develop foundational skills via DIKSHA app, to empanelling a third-party agency under the state education department, Uttar Pradesh has drawn a clear roadmap to achieve foundational learning.
Odisha: The state education department has developed its education modules keeping in mind the skills required in the long haul like problem solving and teamwork to highlight a couple. Dr Sanatan Panda, Joint Director of the Odisha School Education Programme Authority, spoke about the foundational learning packages which will be made available to children of Classes 1 and 2 from the academic year 2020-21, and the learning enhancement programmes for Classes 3 to 10. The state will also be assessing learning outcomes based on these programmes.
However, the state has been conscious of the need to improve foundational learning from much earlier on.
Odisha launched a school certification programme to recognize schools, school principals, and teachers who have succeeded in increasing learning outcomes among children.
The state also distributed help-books and training-videos among teachers and held capacity-building workshops for its education officers at the district, block, and cluster levels.
Tamil Nadu: Madhi Foundation works very closely with the Government of Tamil Nadu to help eliminate the foundational learning crisis in the state. The non-profit has a three-pronged approach to tackle the crisis – teacher learning material, providing training, and tracking progress. It relies heavily on technology to make an impact.
Drawing from her experience, Vijaylakshmi Mohan at Madhi Foundation said that teachers prefer scripted lesson plans and that the most referred to teacher-learning material by them was student workbooks. She also emphasized that the curriculum needs to be strengthened further and learning tools need to be devised specifically to improve foundational literacy and numeracy. Simultaneously, key learnings and challenges need to be documented for success in the long run.
What emerged from all of these discussions was that providing support to teachers – whether in the form of direct supervision, workshops, teacher-training material, or recognition – has proved useful in improving learning outcomes. Perhaps we can look further into how the teaching community can be equipped with more tools and techniques to help children acquire foundational skills.
The EDge Editorial Team
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