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Learning crisis: A big challenge beyond re-opening of schools
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Learning crisis: A big challenge beyond re-opening of schools

School has a role beyond textbook completion too. It is an institution to develop personal and social qualities among students for confronting the possible tough challenges ahead in life

Post by on Friday, March 4, 2022

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Ultimately, formal schooling is set to be started now after a protected closure obviously because of global outbreak of Covid-19. This was not less than a distraction and devastation at multiple fronts of life, livelihood and learning. After loss of life, the loss in academics is the most pronounced even in best-case scenario of developed societies with equitable school funding, systemic vibrancy and world-leading rates of broadband access. Beyond passing the exams, learning from home had a little or no progressive impact as experienced by almost everyone - upper, middle and lower class.

Now, it is essentially craving for a strong and inclusive education system to recover from the learning crisis to avoid the academic vacuum in the times to come. There was a global consensus that education systems in too many countries couldn't deliver the quality education needed to ensure that all have the necessary aptitude to thrive. It is the poorest children who carried the heaviest burden of the situation and failed to master the expected skills, save a meager section.

Keeping students away from the formal schooling for more than two sessions is detrimental. The interaction with students who were better in studies and disciplined during pre-pandemic days revealed shocking impressions. De-conceptualization was visibly marked with erosion in values, standards and norms. This is a disaster in making. School has a role beyond textbook completion too. It is an institution to develop personal and social qualities among students for confronting the possible tough challenges ahead in life. Affording to shut schools for years together is unimaginable but it happened, so is hitting the fall-out now. The role of a school as an agent of change and socialization is the core of schooling concept. And, the fact is that a vast number of students have never been connected, not even for the statistics. They had been left to the un-schooling world, a potential diversion to substance abuse, waywardness and contra-cultural peer rebellion.

The children even being brought up under conscious and controlled parenting are now posing new challenges in the absence of formal schooling. Those who don't have any active academic and social support system at their homes are in deep academic crisis. They were feeling ultra freedom to enjoy off schooling, innocently. Their innocence could turn into a big catastrophe if they are not intercepted and their continuity of staying in the atmosphere of free will is restrained.



Community classes couldn't turn to be alternative to real classes. The exercise was a volunteer gesture. A student, if so wished, joined these classes. They were not too mature to understand the value of time or significance of schooling. And teachers couldn't force them to attend. It has been seen not even half of the students attended these volunteer classes. And it was all about academic support only, leaving the other significant personality dimensions unattended. 

The laboratories, ICT labs and libraries remained locked. The comprehension of certain scientific concepts can't be possible without being practically demonstrated in laboratories. So, the practical understanding of some complex concepts shall be lagging behind. Now, laboratories and classrooms shall have to struggle to go together for being not in confluence for a long time.

The vibrant sessions of morning assemblies, debates and discussions do essentially polish the students to be influential and creative beings. This is more than of being informative and knowledgeable in the contemporary atmosphere of competition which demands something different, something unique. But, this significant part of imparting education, the soul of schooling, had to be closed in August - 2019 in this part of the globe. When the soul-making exercises remained suspended for years together, it demands for a powered-up school system that puts a strong learning mechanism in place to help learners grow and develop a broad range of competencies and skills in and out of school.

Such a school would excel in academics, crowd in supports and utilize technology that would allow for allies in the community from parents to employers to reinforce, complement, and bring to life new experiences in a more affective and conducive eco-system. It must recognize and adapt to the learning that takes place beyond its walls, regularly assessing students’ skills and tailoring learning opportunities to meet students at their skill level. These new allies in children’s learning should actively support teachers to switch on the engine of academic growth afresh.

It will also be a challenge to ensure children to stay in schools after re-opening. This is true of a big schooling-gap and when economic shocks placed pressures on students to work and generate income for financially distressed families during the unprecedented closure. Such students might be adoptive of earnings so it is very hard for them to come back with heart and to coup up the deficiencies. This is likely to increase drop outs. The possibility requires a serious monitoring with certain amount of unlearning. Persistent off schooling might have resulted in such a learning which must be unlearned and dropped. Of course, there could be new learnings in new normal which could be attitudinal undesired acquisitions or imperfect understanding of concepts amidst the de-structured system popped up due to prolonged un-schooling.

Consoling students, listening them, giving them enough time to readjust in schools in rejoicing environment is essential but relying on it is not enough. Crisis in learning can't be overcome through these lovable gestures, only. We need a robust mechanism for a strong academic elevation and standard behavioral change. Expert opinions need to be pooled to come up with a good enough and purely pro-academic package, innovative pedagogical approaches with specific identified targets to manage the learning crisis caused by the unprecedented disruption.

(The author is a regular senior columnist of Rising Kashmir and can be reached at:  reyazmir58@gmail.com)

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