Education Losses | Editorial

A NEW report on the education losses suffered by Pakistani children due to pandemic-induced school closures sheds light on some aspects of the shift to online learning and overall school enrolment. Prepared by the Idara-i-Taleem-o-Agahi and Unicef, the report elaborates on the students’ support systems — or their lack thereof — both at home and in school, and the impact on learning outcomes. It was found that school enrolment for children in the age bracket of six to 16 years, dropped by 2pc when compared to 2019. Even before the pandemic struck, around 22m children in the country were not going to school. Learning outcomes were a major casualty of prolonged school closures. The report states that the percentage of children in Class 3 who could read an Urdu story dropped to 15pc in 2021 from 19pc in 2019. Meanwhile, English-learning outcomes, as a percentage of children who could read English sentences, went down from 21pc in 2019 to a pitiable 8pc in 2021. With many private and some public institutions shifting to online learning, 63pc of the children surveyed said their families tried to support their education. Out of more than 47,000 responders, 32pc said their schools provided learning materials while 58pc revealed that no one from the school administration bothered to reach out to them. The fact that a majority of children felt disconnected from the learning experience and schooling is reflective of the socioeconomic and technological disparities that exist in Pakistani society. Moreover, 32pc of the children reportedly found the state television’s tele-school programmes helpful while another 40pc said they used the internet via smartphones.

The fact that learning outcomes regressed despite televised and online learning aides is revealing: not everyone has access to smartphones, a reliable internet connection or the finances to afford these, and a school environment enables better learning. These findings could be studied in greater detail to carry out targeted reforms in the education sector. The government should think of ways to have safe classrooms while also investing in better online structure for days when school is closed.

Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2021​








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