Learning “loss” and learning “gain” in primary school years: what do we know from India that can help us think forward in the COVID-19 crisis?

Autor(es): Banerji, Rukmini

Date: 2020

Pages: 8 p.

Serie: RISE insight series


In India, as well as globally, there is widespread concern that economic hardships faced by families will have consequences for children’s schooling in terms of disruption and discontinuities. In addition, the worry about “learning loss” is shared by households, communities, and governments. The fact that basic learning levels were worryingly low before the COVID crisis and that further “learning loss” may be significant adds to the deepening concern about an already inequitable situation widening divides: disadvantaged children suffering further disadvantage. As we look forward to reopening schools and to start planning for what to do immediately after schools open, many questions come to mind: Is there data about “learning loss” and “learning gain” available for India that can guide our planning? More specifically for our context: What kind of learning “loss” occurs during usual summer vacation periods? How much do children in different primary grades “gain” in a typical year? If focussed efforts are made to tackle “learning loss”, how much “catch up” is possible? Finding relevant evidence and connecting to appropriate experiences are both essential if we are to chart future plans in a realistic way. This note is an attempt to answer these questions using available data from Uttar Pradesh. Children lose quite a bit over the summer months and hence the losses from extended COVID shutdowns are likely to be substantial. The gains from a typical year of schooling in Uttar Pradesh are modest. But there is optimism, as dedicated programmes focused on foundational learning - implemented in government schools at scale - can lead to the equivalent of a typical year of learning in just three months.

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