First published in Radiance Viewsweekly
To recover the learning loss of basic numeracy and foundational literacy caused by the second and third waves of COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty of a ‘post-COVID’ world, training and orientation of school teachers and volunteers is the need of the hour.
Recently, the Ministry of Education (MoE) released the final report cards of the National Achievement Survey (NAS) 2021. This is the second NAS in the country, with NAS 2017 being released in the subsequent year. But the latest NAS holds significant importance as it has garnered a great deal of attention due to the prevalent crisis in school education. During the second and third waves of COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty of a ‘post-COVID’ world which remains a fragile reality, the collapse of public health systems, a declining economy, and the crisis in education were hotly debated, discussed, reported and written about.
The major issues that have been largely identified are school closure, digital divide, effectiveness of online teaching and learning, crisis in the internationalisation of higher education, learning outcomes and continuity. During this period, studies were also conducted on the issues of learning outcome and learning loss. The reports on learning loss by Azim Premji University and UNICEF were two of the important reports.
Educators called it learning loss because of the loss of numeracy and foundational literacy due to school closure and shift to the online mode of education. However, unlike other educationists, Professor Anita Rampal of the All India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRTE) in a seminar in early 2022 refused to call it learning loss, rather, she preferred to call it a ‘learning deprivation’, because unlike loss, deprivation involves an operational failure to provide for education and establishes that many agents and actors failed to chalk out any plan to teach students.
The state, in short, was unable to provide quality education which resulted in the active loss of foundational literacy and numeracy. NAS 2021 gives a much deeper picture with regards to learning loss and learning outcome with a much larger sample than the sample used by earlier reports. It sketches out detailed learning outcomes not only in Mathematics and Languages but also in Social Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Modern Indian Languages, etc.
WHAT IS NAS?
The National Achievement Survey (NAS) is a largescale assessment of students of classes 3, 5, 8, and 10, conducted by the Ministry of Education, Government of India to obtain information about the learning achievement of students studying in State Government schools, aided schools, private unaided schools, and central government schools. The assessment framework was designed by NCERT (National Council for Educational Research and Training) and administered by CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education).
NAS 2021 was based on competency-based learning outcomes. The survey covered 1,18,274 schools among 14.1 lakh students (as per UDISE Report 2020-21), 5,26,824 teachers, 34 lakh students and 733 districts across the country. Till date this is the largest sample survey during the Covid-19 pandemic with its multiple waves. That is why the results of this survey are of significant importance for the Ministry of Education, policymakers, educationists, NGOs, schools, teachers, students, etc. This survey also gives a picture on the basis of gender, caste, rural-urban, management wise, etc.
Major Highlights Of Nas 2021
- Over 60 per cent of the schools surveyed were either run by the Centre or the states or were government-aided institutions and, among these, West Bengal was one of the high-performing states in all parameters.
- It boasts of a respectable percentage of primary school teachers, high enrolment rate and has better access to drinking water and hygiene facilities in schools.
- Delhi below average for all three subjects for class 3 and 5. Above average Language and Science for class 8, average for Social Sciences.
- Data Point team at The Hindu did a comparison of NAS 2021 with the previous NAS report of 2017-18. The team did a careful comparison of scores across classes and subjects. And they found that, there is significant overall dip in the national average compared to 2017-18 NAS. It suggests that there is a massive decline in the learning outcome most probably due to the school closures and shift of education to the online education with digital divide during multiple lockdowns in the country.
- NAS 2021 results show, though not much difference in gender wise learning loss, but students from OBC, SC and ST communities have experienced much higher educational decline than others.
Yogendra Yadav in his recent article in The Print derived three important conclusions which can be reflected in the above graph as well:
“First, the quality of school education is poor. In broad terms, taking all classes together, the average score of students is less than 60 per cent in every subject (59 in environmental studies, 55 in English, 53 in maths, 49 in social sciences and 46 in science), except their own language. This picture is a little better than what comes across from ASER surveys.”
Secondly, he adds that “the achievement level suffers as we go up the school ladder. For example, in class three, the average score for language is 65 per cent. It goes down to 62 per cent in class five, 60 per cent in class eight and merely 52 per cent in class ten. There is an identical pattern for maths and more or less similar for other subjects.” He called it “serious indictment of our schooling system.”
Thirdly, he concluded it as worse, arguing that “the greater the years of schooling, the wider the social gap in learning.”
Point three of this conclusion can also be substantiated in the graph below. In the below graph one could see downward slope of a straight line which suggests the downward trend in the performance after each level of the schooling which was also argued by Mr. Yadav.
Performance of students in Maths and Science is a major concern. There is a dramatic decline in the performance of students in Maths and Science. In every segment of class the curve has U shape and the bottom point of U shape is scores in Maths and Science. Probable reason could be learning loss of Maths and Science in previous classes. This can be explained using an example in Maths. To solve the problems of LCM and HCF a student needs to have a command over multiplication and division of multiple digits. Similarly, in a majority of the mathematical problems a student needs to understand and comprehend the Mathematics of previous classes. This may be the probable reason for scoring less in the higher classes.
NCERT at different levels had released a detailed manual to assess the students and address the issue of learning loss. Many organisations also have been intervening in the assessment process of school going students and giving complex and time consuming solutions. These modules have to be critically evaluated and simple and short solution needs to be given to recover the learning loss of basic numeracy and foundational literacy. For this emergency training and orientation of school teachers and volunteers is need of the hour.