Why ad­e­quate catch-up strate­gies will curb im­pact of school clo­sures on learn­ing


Nige­ria ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor in­deed the rest of the world hav e s e en first­hand the ef­fects of the COVID-19 cri­sis on learn­ing es­pe­cially at the pri­mary level, as ba­sic com­pe­ten­cies are the build­ing blocks for all ed­u­ca­tion and are strong pre­dic­tors of life op­por­tu­ni­ties.

An­a­lysts opine that if learn­ing losses are in­evitable, they can be re­duced if the right de­ci­sions are made through well-de­signed sys­tem-wide in­ter­ven­tions that in­clude teach­ers, as well as fam­i­lies and caregivers.

They ar­gue that the ef­fects of the COVID-19 cri­sis on learn­ing are par­tic­u­larly wor­ri­some at the pri­mary level be­cause these skills are the eas­i­est to lose when school­ing is in­ter­rupted, as stud­ies on read­ing abil­ity losses dur­ing va­ca­tions show, and the hardest to re­gain once school­ing restarts. Yet, they present a fer­tile area for im­prove­ment as the tech­niques to ac­quire foun­da­tional skills are bet­ter known than those used to aug­ment skills at the sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion level or in more spe­cialised sub­jects.

Ac­cord­ing to an­a­lysts, learn­ing losses mea­sured soon af­ter the dis­rup­tion, as a study from South Africa shows, are greater than what ac­tual days of school­ing lost sug­gest. It is un­clear whether these losses worsen, stay the same or shrink over time.

How­ever, it is likely that the im­pacts worsen over time if learn­ing losses are not ad­dressed, as learn­ing is cu­mu­la­tive and chil­dren who are left be­hind will lag even fur­ther.

Thus, a pru­dent and rea­son­able as­sump­tion is that such losses will worsen with­out ad­e­quate in­ter­ven­tions, such as re­me­dial classes and ad­di­tional time al­lot­ted to com­plete classes.

Pro­jected fig­ures il­lus­trate the learn­ing gaps and sim­u­late a worst-case sce­nario for ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems that do not adopt catch-up strate­gies rel­a­tive to those that do.

They project that learn­ers will sus­tain ed­u­ca­tion losses dur­ing the pan­demic due to school days lost. How­ever, ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems that im­ple­ment re­me­dial strate­gies will help at least some learn­ers catch-up to the preCOVID tra­jec­tory. Those that do not will have to wait un­til the co­hort of stu­dents af­fected by the pan­demic has moved on to the sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion level.

This sce­nario as­sumes that there will be no new pan­demic or health cri­sis that gen­er­ates fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion in­ter­rup­tions. Epi­demi­ol­o­gists, how­ever, have long pre­dicted a COVId-like pan­demic and warn that there may be more pan­demics on the hori­zon.

Thus, mount­ing an ad­e­quate ed­u­ca­tion re­sponse now with the cur­rent pan­demic will serve at least three pur­poses. It will help deal with the cur­rent im­pact, im­prove sys­tems over­all, and help pre­pare us for the next cri­sis.

Hamid Bob­boyi, ex­ec­u­tive sec­re­tary, Univer­sal ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mis­sion

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