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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

News Highlights

  • It seems that the education system has not been able to put in place effective mechanisms for reaching out systematically to children when schools are unable to hold in-person classes, which means that the vast majority of children have spent a year and a half without much engagement with educational content.

Even as Odisha has rolled out the much-touted Shiksha Sanjog Programme to deliver education at the doorstep to tide over the pandemic hurdles, it seems the State has grossly failed in walking the talk.

As per the latest ASER report released recently, Odisha could deliver learning material/activities to only 36 percent of school-going students in grades of I - VIII. In contrast, progressive states like Gujarat and Kerala government schools delivered so to a whopping 74 percent school going students.

Putting the glare on the loss of learning ability in such formative years of school life, the report had observed how the contingency of the hour has been having such a mechanism that does not rely on a technology interface and, therefore, removes a major barrier for many students who have no access or limited access to smartphones.

Then comes the worrisome observation: "It seems that the education system has not been able to put in place effective mechanisms for reaching out systematically to children when schools are unable to hold in-person classes, which means that the vast majority of children have spent a year and a half without much engagement with educational content."

UNICEF Report

In sync with the ASER report, an earlier UNICEF report on Covid-19 and Education in India reveals that over 68 percent of parents stated that they didn't receive any learning material as the schools didn't provide so.

The report has also maintained that a majority of school-going students in Odisha have received learning material via Whatsapp. Though 64 percent of school-going children in the grades of I-VIII in Odisha have access to smartphones, only 46 percent have all-time access, finds the ASER report 2021.  

Gujarat Vs Odisha

As per the ASER 2021 Report, while 88 percent of school-going children have access to smartphones in Gujarat, only 37 percent have access to the device for all times. In Odisha, the figure has been higher.

However, when 19 percent school going students in Odisha were unable to have access to education via smartphones; the count in Gujarat has been mere 4 percent. This shows access to online education in Gujarat is higher than Odisha.

In the given backdrop, the western state of Gujarat has rolled out education with an equity programme to tide over the pandemic bumps. But Odisha couldn't roll out such an initiative in the State.

The Gujarat Model - A World Bank Study  

As per the WB report titled "The Gujarat Model: Managing Learning Continuity During COVID-19", nearly 25-30 percent of students had limited or no access to remote learning devices like smartphones.

However, the government of Gujarat has rolled a holistic Home Learning Programme in 2020 to address this technical glitch in delivering doorstep education. The salient points are listed below.

  • Gujarat undertook an exhaustive device-mapping exercise to measure the type/medium of access to remote education -  television, smartphones, regular cellphones, tablet, radio, or none of these.
  • Post mapping, the State had found out that only 31.37 percent have internet facilities, though nearly half had smartphone or tablets.
  • Then it had planned a learning programme to ensure equity in delivering education.
  • Learning support provided at the local level (Village and hamlet level)
  • Introduced an innovative pairing system - where students with and without devices were paired.
  • Created a mobile bank for learning materials.
  • Provided online classes at citizen service centres or village offices
  • Launched mobile learning vehicles in year 2020 (Odisha introduced this policy decision in the State in Oct 2021).
  • During COVID-19, PAT (Personal Assessment Test) infrastructure was used to circulate material and personalize remote education to the learning levels of each student.
  • What is PAT?
  • Periodic Assessment Tests (PAT), are formative weekly tests on each subject. Question papers, linked to time tables/schedules and mapped to learning outcomes, are delivered digitally to all schools with centralized systems to gauge student responses.
  • The State topped in making use of DIKSHA (Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing) - this platform enables QR-coded textbooks to be scanned with a normal cellphone.
  • As per WB report, Gujarat recorded highest number of direct plays of e-content, among all Indian states, during the pandemic phase.

The Key Takeaway

Despite huge learning losses during the first pandemic wave, Odisha didn't roll out a policy to ensure education with equity during the second wave. The consequence is govt schools in the State failed to deliver learning material or activities (like giving homeworks) to a massive 64 percent school going students in the grades of I - VIII.

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