Squaring up to India’s education emergency

SourceThe Hindu and Livemint

Relevance: This article explains the global Stringency Index and India’s school education system during the pandemic.

Synopsis:

In making up for months of lost formal learning, there needs to be a strong government response to improve school education.

Introduction:

The Oxford Stringency Index’s school closure indicator shows that 404 days in India between March 5, 2020, and July 20, 2021, were characterised as being at the most severe policy response (requiring the closure of all types of educational institutions). As a result, about 265 million schoolchildren have been taught exclusively through so-called “remote learning”, the largest number in any country for the longest period of time.

Read more: Our children need education. How much longer can schools remain shut?
About the Index:

The Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker has created a global Stringency Index. This index tracked the closure of educational institutions across all countries since the beginning of the novel coronavirus pandemic. This indicator is one of eight “containment and closure” indicators and a health information indicator used to calculate the index.

Read more: Let’s chalk out a plan to reopen our schools before it gets too late
Key findings of the Index:

Within a few months of the first lockdown of schools in March 2020, pandemic-hit Europe began resuming in-person schooling for certain groups of children or certain localities.

The Oxford Stringency Index shows that less affluent countries, such as Uruguay and Vietnam also took a more measured approach.

India’s education policy response was similar to that of Brazil. This is significant as India faced less severity during 2020 than in Brazil.

Read more: India’s schoolchildren need their childhood back
Global examples:

By March 2021, 51 countries had resumed in-person education. In another 90 countries, including many in Africa, resorted to “hybrid” schooling models (i.e., a combination of in-person and remote teaching). Similar strategies were not systematically tried in India.

Read more: Why are government schools not the first choice?
Suggestions to reopen schools in India:

Kerala provided basic access to remote learning by June 2020 to its four million students through the KITE VICTERs educational TV channel, which broadcast classes for all subjects in each grade. The government can initiate steps like that at the pan India level.

Once the schools reopen, offering a few standardised “bridge” courses and “remedial classes” may seem like a facile antidote to the months of lost formal learning.

An ‘Education Emergency Room’ should be set up in every district to coordinate, implement and monitor local plans.

Read more: A pandemic-optimized plan for kids to resume their education
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