Teach for India collaborates with Boston Consulting Group for a case study on India’s educational needs
Schools in India are now mostly closed for 2 years (especially primary and middle schools). Although many efforts have been made for online education, its penetration and effectiveness are extremely inadequate. In a country where 40-70 percent of children do not have access to a device, taking refuge in school online education means that a large portion of children are excluded. Preliminary data suggest that 90 percent of children have lost the ability to speak at least one language. In fact, World Bank research suggests that dropping out of school each year could reduce a student’s future income by 9 percent – which could have a devastating effect on future GDP. While we expected all schools to reopen in January 2022, the rise of Omicron has led to a new wave of prolonged closures across the country – which has similarly dashed the hopes of educators, parents and children.
In this context, Teach for India and BCG have compared how other countries and some Indian states have dealt with continuing education through Kovid. The report ‘India Needs to Learn – A Case for Keeping Schools Open’ highlights the key findings of this study and the requirements for building a better India.
The recommendations have been developed and supported in consultation with 35+ organizations in the field of education (including but not limited to ACT grants, overall | Transforming Governance, CSF, Piramal Foundation) and supported by multiple public health leaders, including Dr.
A global comparison of school conditions since the Covid injury reveals that in 2020 (the first half) most schools were closed, but many countries kept schools largely open through the next wave. In 2021, for example, many countries had private schools open for the greater part of the year (including Japan, South Africa, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Portugal). This is despite the fact that there are 2-8 times more diseases or cases per million population than in India. In fact, many countries preferred to keep schools open from malls, shops, gyms (e.g., France, United Kingdom, Canada, Singapore). In many cases it has been possible to decentralize the decision to open / close schools at the school / county level to avoid closing public schools.
Seema Bansal (Director, BCG) says, “After working on education transformation programs in 5 states of India, I have personally witnessed the amount of learning loss which was astonishing – due to the digital divide in more rural India, in India, Given the response from the right motives due to the long-standing closure of schools, it needs to be questioned now. And we have to open up first – as many other countries have successfully demonstrated. “
The report also explores public health arguments that point to the risk of reopening fewer schools driven by multiple factors. First, covid infections and severity are less common in children. It has been found that children have 3-6 times less incidence and 17x + fewer deaths than adults. Second, despite the reopening of schools in selected states of India by mid-2021, the number of cases did not increase (e.g., Punjab, Maharashtra, etc.) indicating less infection in schools. Third, increasing vaccine infiltration also strengthens the reopening of schools, as it will likely lead to fewer hospitalizations and deaths (higher than in previous forms with Omicron based on preliminary data from other countries).
One of the main problems in centralized decision making in India is that schools in districts with very limited coverage were closed due to massive closures (at the state level). By the end of December 2021, for example, 70 percent of India was in the district
“While school closures have a direct impact on education, there are many other indirect, negative consequences. For example, according to the OXFAM study, 35% of children did not get lunch during school closures – a potential problem for malnourished children in India.” Other consequences include poor socio-economic health and child labor, “added Diksha Bahal (consultant, BCG).
The report outlines 4 key requirements for the Indian education system, where it is important to pivot schools in a philosophy of ‘closing from the end and opening first’:
- Decentralize school reopening and closing at a grainy level (e.g., ward, gram panchayat, school level) with clearly defined rules
- Offer year-round blended learning constructs, meaning continue learning online as well as offline
- Strengthen testing (e.g., weekly antigen tests), immunizations (e.g., mandatory for school staff), safety protocols (e.g., masking, etc.) and ventilation (e.g., outdoor facilities, ventilation monitors)
- Prepare to fill learning gaps due to epidemic-driven school closures and allocate adequate resources
Finally, since children / students return to school after পূর্ণ 2 full years, India needs a huge multi-year catch-up program for them (a 30-day or 100-day program may not be enough). This will require strong resource allocation, “mission-mode” focus and resilience planning to build better.
Shaheen Mistry (CEO, Teach for India) says, “650-odd-day schooling has been severely disrupted, with schools across the country closed for virtually all children. This is a huge step forward. The school-going generation will suffer permanently, we will have to invest heavily in the next few years, not only to close the many voids created by the epidemic but also to use it as an opportunity to re-imagine a new, fundamentally different education system – where continuous learning rather than board exams. More importantly, where children come to school to live their best lives and to develop skills and values to improve the lives of others. “
The full report is here.