The Azim Premji Foundation has conducted a field study to capture the voices of primary school teachers.
Primary schools across the country have been physically closed since March 2020. This has had a profound effect on education – what the children would have learned if the school had been open and what they have forgotten because of the long disconnection from the regular teaching-learning process.
The Azim Premji Foundation conducted a field study in August 2021 covering 363 primary school teachers across 18 districts in 5 states to find out what happened during school closures and, more importantly, what needs to be done after schools reopen.
The key findings of this study across geography are:
- Children miss out on completely personal interactions that are important for learning, especially in the early stages. Even teachers who have interacted with students through a variety of methods during school closures feel that the 2020-21 academic year curriculum is not adequately covered, and that previous education, including the basic ability to read a picture, has been damaged. Understanding, the ability to write simple sentences based on a picture and perform basic mathematical operations.
- When school resumes, tutoring should be informed by the learning level of each child in the class, not the regular curriculum. In terms of the scope of the learning rate, the assessment of primary ability – as opposed to class-specific ability – is required in all classes after schools reopen.
- This will require a curriculum change, a reduction in the curriculum load to adapt to the core competencies, as well as a conscious, planned focus on basic literacy and numeracy.
- Students need to respond not only to curriculum changes but also to socio-psychological problems for teaching and learning methods. Each class will require a variety of teaching-learning materials for students at different levels.
- Dealing with the loss of education will require the support and time and patience of teachers for autonomy and administration. All other measures, including curriculum and pedagogical changes, will not work unless teachers are given enough time in their respective classrooms to recover.
Once schools resume appropriate curriculum changes, school and classroom processes and materials are critical to compensating for the loss of learning. Most importantly, we must make teachers the center of our trust, and empower them with the resources and support to exercise their autonomy to help every child care for their education.