There has been a dip in the learning ability of students, post-pandemic, as reported by the recently-released Annual Status of Education Report (ASER). While there is a massive surge in the number of students who have enrolled in schools after the pandemic, the learning skill deficiency caused by the pandemic and the challenges children are required to overcome to get back into learning, are at an all-time high.
Educators THE WEEK spoke to cited multiple reasons for the dip ranging from shorter attention spans, gadget usage and reduced social skills. Besides these obvious reasons, educators also said the reduced immunity level in younger children who stayed fully indoors for two years has also affected post-pandemic schooling.
When asked about the study's findings, an early-year educator, Chrisen Raju, reflected for a moment and answered, “Children struggle with a lot more health problems and fall sick more often because they get exposed to flu or cough. Their immune systems never got the chance to develop resistance against as they hardly left their homes and were never exposed to these because during the pandemic.”
Explaining further, Chrisen highlights the deeper problem that directly affects children’s learning. “Their health affects their attendance, since they fall sick so often, they miss a lot of classes every other week. The children are unable to understand the portions as they miss lessons and end up struggling when they show up to class after getting better.”
Sofia Dini, a kindergarten teacher, also had similar findings and said, "There was a serious loss in the foundation for mischievous children who cleverly had their parents complete their homework. They struggled to write letters and to hold pencils.”
Prathibha Menon, a lower primary teacher, talked about children's reluctance to adjust, shorter attention spans, and lethargy post-pandemic. "Their social skills have reduced and they cannot adjust or share even with friends now. They don’t want to learn concepts guaranteed to interest them anymore" she added.
While tiny tots struggle with holding pencils properly and having trouble sitting still, the students and teachers in higher grades also face challenges. "Students struggle with their psycho-motor abilities, find cognitive thinking challenging, and are unable to focus for prolonged durations. Offline classes were initially overwhelming for learners," said Roopma Anand, an educator. She also drew attention to students’ use of abbreviations even in their exams and the use of slang words in formal settings.
“A bad network was an easy excuse for some to skip classes, while a few genuinely had trouble joining classes. Some would play games or chat with friends during class hours,” Merin Jacob, an 8th grader recalls.
Esther Susan and Shiv Narayanan, both of them 12th graders, described getting back to offline learning as a good shift that came with problems like finding it harder to concentrate and being overwhelmed by the post-pandemic stress. A higher secondary teacher, Reyma Reji, also observed that there have been a lot of changes in the classroom behaviour of the students. She noted how teenagers feel isolated and often struggle with mental health issues more than ever.
Chitra S. Nair, principal of Bharatiya Vidya Mandir in Kerala's Thrissur, said restlessness returned in students with a loss of focus in academics as gadgets consumed unchecked amounts of their time. “Classes one to five are managed with dynamic methods of experiential learning and loads of activities now, but the high schoolers were rather anxious to face the board exams they don’t feel prepared for,” she said.
Both students and teachers are facing struggles in various dimensions of teaching and learning as schools are back open after the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.