Has The Learning Gap Widened in 2024? Here’s How Your School Can Fight Back

Has The Learning Gap Widened in 2024? Here’s How Your School Can Fight Back

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Learning Gap

Who would have believed that the entire globe would come to a stop in 2020? It is a year that will be remembered for decades. COVID-19 has affected many aspects of people’s lives, including the way education is imparted. The learning mode had to switch from offline to online overnight. This posed challenges such as limited internet access, lack of devices, etc. Moreover, travel restrictions and school closures disrupted children’s daily routines, social interactions, and academic outcomes.

In-person instruction was put on hold when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. As a result, many students’ academic progress was interrupted. Schools and teachers adapted to online instruction, but many students experienced significant learning loss due to their unique home situations.

The global pandemic has thus exacerbated the learning crisis. Basic reading levels of children have dropped to pre-2012 levels because of the pandemic, according to annual education surveys. Here are some examples:

  • A 2021 World Bank report stated that given the prolonged school closures, the proportion of children in low- and middle-income countries who live in learning poverty—which was already 53% before the pandemic—could potentially reach 70%. The curriculum taught in schools is hierarchically structured and connected across years; therefore, a learning gap, especially in early grades and critical periods, can result in a high risk of failure in future learning. However, this disadvantage can be minimized if students with learning difficulties receive specialized support to catch up before moving on to the next grade.
  • The Annual State of Education Report (ASER) provides an overview of children’s education and learning in rural India through a large-scale, citizen-led household survey. The 2022 ASER revealed that the basic reading comprehension of school kids in all classes has fallen to levels prior to 2012, while fundamental math abilities have dropped to levels seen last year. The survey recorded the schooling status of children in the age group of 3-16 and assessed children aged 5-16 in basic reading and arithmetic. It indicates that the declines are evident for both boys and girls in public and private schools in most states.

What is learning loss?

According to the Glossary of Education Reform, learning loss refers to the specific or general loss of knowledge and skills, or reversals in academic progress, most commonly caused by extended gaps or discontinuities in a student’s education. This phenomenon is frequently observed in education due to the long summer break and, in this case, the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some initiatives in India and across the world towards improving learning loss:

  • The Delhi government has introduced a program called ‘Mission Buniyaad’ to bridge the learning gap induced by COVID-19 for students in state-run schools. The program aims to help children in public and municipal schools become better learners.
  • The Indian NGO Pratham created the Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) strategy with the goal of ensuring that all children have fundamental abilities in arithmetic and reading before completing primary school. The method is effective because it uses a variety of interesting teaching and learning activities, groups children according to their learning levels rather than their age or grade, focuses on core skills rather than just the curriculum, and tracks the development of students.

Read More: How can Affordable Private Schools overcome the financial burden imposed by covid?

What is learning gap?

A difference between a student’s actual understanding of subject matter and what is required at their specific grade level is known as a learning gap. A student may have a learning gap in one or more subjects during their academic career. Education for students is like building blocks—it builds upon prior knowledge. Students cannot continue to create and understand difficult and advanced concepts if they have learning gaps.

How learning gap affects education?

Learning gaps affect education by creating barriers for students to grasp basic and essential concepts, restricting their academic progress. When these gaps are not addressed correctly and at the right time, students may struggle to build upon their knowledge effectively, affecting their overall learning experience and the possibility of success in school.

What must schools do to minimize the learning gaps caused by the pandemic?

Looking ahead, here are some tactics for minimizing learning loss and helping students regain some sense of routine and achieve significant learning gains despite the pandemic:

1. Diagnose learning gaps

Teachers should measure students’ academic progress and identify gaps in learning. This can be done with the aid of educational technology.

2. Identify and bear down on prerequisite skills

Pause certain topics or allocate less attention to them in favour of essential prerequisite skills like foundational math or language. Proceeding with the curriculum without ensuring that students acquire these fundamental abilities will widen the learning gap.

3. Personalize and flexibilize teaching

Maximize every student’s potential by closing learning gaps and personalizing learning where gaps have been identified. Meaningful collaboration, small group formation for better student engagement, and recognition of each student’s specific needs can all help achieve this. Whether virtual classes or in-person, learning happens in school. One of the best ways to close the learning gap is to ensure that students are engaged. Educational research has found that engaged learners are more motivated and better learners.

4. Ensure socio-emotional well-being interventions

The abrupt and prolonged school closures have had a negative effect on students’ social and emotional well-being. Implement a secure and encouraging learning environment at school to help students study better. A school can include resilience in the curriculum so that students will be more adaptable and flexible in their learning and will experience fewer learning gaps if similar situations arise in the future.

5. Implement Learning through projects

Include learning objectives from all major disciplines in projects. This helps students comprehend the links between them, and they tend to recall more when they approach learning as a whole.

6. Rethink and embed evaluation and assessment components

Along with a learning gap, there is also a possibility of a huge gap in students’ test scores. To address this, profiles for each student can be created after evaluating their performance and identifying any gaps in prior achievement. Then, lessons and tests can be tailored specifically to each student’s needs to help them catch up. This approach can reduce the growing gap in test scores.

7. Involve family members, community, and organizations 

Despite the unprecedented crisis, there are better prospects for success if all adult stakeholders work together to act in the student’s best interests. To prevent learning deficits, schools should collaborate closely with families, communities, and other organizations in the neighborhood.

Conclusion

It is crucial for the most impacted nations to urgently strengthen their support systems to boost learning for underprivileged students, as the health crisis has worsened learning deficiencies around the world. By identifying underperforming students, continuously tracking their progress, and providing them with extra support, a comprehensive system can help reduce learning deficiencies.

FAQs

1. How can the learning gaps be overcome?

Learning gaps can be overcome through various interventions such as personalised tutoring, small group teaching, and adapting technologies in learning. Providing additional support and resources according to individual student needs helps bridge the gap by strengthening foundational skills and addressing areas of weakness, promoting academic progress and success.

2. What is the reason for gap in education?

Gaps in education can affect the education quality and academic success of students. Addressing these gaps is essential for achieving educational equity. The reasons for gaps in education are many like:

  • Disparities in resources, teaching quality, and socioeconomic status
  • Inadequate access to educational materials 
  • Limited academic support and societal inequalities
  • Learning differences
  • Challenges like disabilities or language barriers
  • Disruptions such as school closures

3. What are the gaps in school education?

The gaps in education are:

Knowledge gaps: Students do not know or were not exposed to the correct information.

Skills gaps: Students have not had the practice necessary to develop common skills. 

Motivation gaps: Students lack the motivation to advance their knowledge or skills. 

Environmental gaps: Students lack an environment suitable for learning.

Communication gaps: Students experience difficulties in communication. 

4. How do you identify a struggling learner?

Identifying struggling learners involves monitoring academic performance, observing behaviour in the classroom, and assessing engagement levels. Students may be struggling academically or emotionally. Signs may include consistently low grades, difficulty completing tasks, lack of participation, expressing frustration or disinterest in learning, anxious behaviours, skipping a class, distracting others, change in tone of voice, sleeping, tired etc. Standardised tests, teacher observations, and parent reports can provide valuable insights into a student’s struggles. Also, regular communication with students, parents, and educational professionals helps identify challenges early.

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