New Delhi: Union Minister for Finance & Corporate Affairs Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman participated in a discussion on paper titled “Learning Losses: What to do about the Heavy Cost of COVID on Children, Youth, and Future Productivity” during the Development Committee dinner meeting of the World Bank in during the Annual Meetings 2022 Washington DC, late evening yesterday.
In her opening remarks, the finance minister said that every participating nation agrees that an unrelenting focus on learning recovery and skill improvement is a must in the wake of COVID19 led school closures.
Sharing her India specific experience, Smt. Sitharaman shared two steps that India has undertaken with respect the impact of COVID19 pandemic on loss of learning:
In November 2021, India conducted the National Achievement Survey (NAS), covering 3.4 million students of grades III, V, VII and X, to evaluate learning competencies. It showed national average performance had dropped to 9% as compared to NAS 2017 for comparable grades.
In March 2022, India undertook a National Foundation Learning Study for grade III students. It was the world’s largest sample for one-on-one assessment and the first time ever that numeracy and comprehension benchmarks based on Global proficiency Framework in 20 languages used as medium of instruction in India.
The finance minister emphasised that these two efforts provide not only authentic assessment of magnitude of the problem but also drive evidence-based planning for systemic interventions. The finance minister shared these examples with the World Bank so that they can be shared this experience with other countries.
The finance minister states further that India’s digital platform, DIKSHA, which has been identified as one of the 12 Digital Global Goods by India, is now in public domain. Last year, Smt. Sitharaman said, India became the first country in the world to provide QR coded textbooks to elementary school children through this platform. The finance minister also offered DIKSHA to all interested countries and stated the world Bank can consider this opportunity to scale up digital education globally.
The finance minister further stated that India had uploaded the draft National Education Policy based on a 5 year highly participative and multi-pronged consultations. As the Policy was released in July 2020, it was informed by the impact of pandemic on education and forms the basis for a new National Curriculum Framework.
Smt. Sitharaman said that such highly participative consultation process has generated huge interest in quality learning, need for foundational skills, better quality of teaching and learning resources, and skill-based education for every learner. India have recently launched Vidyanjali 2.0 online platform to connect volunteers directly with schools of their choice and to help expedite learning recovery.
Smt. Sitharaman was pleased to observe that a reference in the paper to India’s GOAL programme, which is helping to implement a technology enabled remedial programme for building foundational skills.
The finance minister noted that the paper also references, as a good practice, India’s “Teach at the Right Level” initiative where children are divided into instructional groups based on learning needs, rather than age or grade.
Smt. Sitharaman informed the participants that India has also introduced an Alternative Academic Calendar containing week-wise plan covering syllabus-based learning outcomes. Similarly, to equip teachers India has launched an Integrated Teacher training programme NISHTHA (National Initiative for School Heads and Teachers for Holistic Advancement).
In concluding her address, Smt. Sitharaman exhorted the World Bank should use its knowledge power to help countries draw up a Learning Loss Recovery Action Plan in order to avert the prospect of a lost generation, cumulative future economic losses due to lower productivity, earnings and of heightened social unrest.