The learning loss owing to school closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic is said to disproportionately affect students in their foundation years of primary schooling as compared to higher grades. This is especially true for a country like India that has limited infrastructural arrangements for students from vulnerable backgrounds. In times like these, we cannot overlook the role of foundational learning.
Children have a great ability to absorb what they learn provided there is right guidance and innovative techniques that can help build their interest and enhance learning abilities. It is imperative that the content and subjects are personalised and contextualised for children. However, regardless of the techniques employed, it is of paramount importance that the focus remains on foundational learning.
Foundational learning forms the basis of all future learning and includes two main pillars – foundational literacy and foundational numeracy.
Foundational literacy means being able to read with comprehension. For instance, the key skill to pick up while the child is in Classes 1 and 2 are identifying letters, reading familiar words and listening comprehension. On the other hand, foundational numeracy is being able to have a number sense, which includes the ability to identify numbers, differentiate between numbers, find missing numbers, solve addition and subtraction problems, and solve word problems. In higher grades, more and more academic content is transmitted through text, and children’s ability to acquire new knowledge and skills depends largely on their ability to read and extract meaning from text.
Teachers should have appropriate resources to teach literacy and numeracy skills to students. A list of pedagogical concepts relevant for each age along with a list of the most common misconceptions that students face would be a powerful assist for a teacher. This combined with diagnostic assessment tools can help teachers know where exactly their students are and test specific skills. Remedial measures can be planned based on this assessment. Each remedial plan should discuss one or two sample questions with student performance data, learning from the data, activities, and remedial measures to overcome the gap.
To reduce the learning loss in foundational skills due to the lockdown, it is important for parents to understand the importance of continued learning. This may or may not be as formal as having a lesson plan in place. Activities parents can plan include working with everyday objects that can be used for counting, identifying shapes, measuring the length of common objects, or one’s own height. Another option is to involve children in everyday transactions of money, groceries etc. This enables them to develop critical thinking, logic etc, apart from using math concepts in everyday life. Parents can also run small experiments at home to spark curiosity and promote scientific temper in children. Parental support is also required to navigate through educational programmes aired on TV and radio.
Students should be provided with customised content that is needed to bridge their learning gaps. The key to learning is meaningful engagement and continuity.