Impact of the pandemic on student learning and well-being

Dr. Ravi Kumar C PUpdated: Tuesday, June 14, 2022, 04:03 PM IST
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Impact of the pandemic on student learning and well-being |

With school closure and the introduction of remote learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there have been disruptions in learning amongst many students thereby creating a huge learning gap. And, flip-flopping of classes between online and offline has further affected the learning and children’s development. In India, around 250 million students were affected due to school closures at the onset of lockdown induced by COVID-19. Reports from across the country state that cases of students showing anxiety, screen addictions, recurring headaches, obesity, eye-related issues and stress-linked behavioural changes among students have increased by 50%. The majority of the health-related issues are due to the lack of social interactions. It has to be noted that psychological consequences like memory loss and rise in learning gaps result from neurological factors/deviations too, apart from psychological factors themselves.

The global disruption to education caused by COVID-19 has been unparalleled, affecting 1.6 billion learners at its peak and leaving 463 million children unable to access digital or remote learning programs. Many school systems around the country are balancing their efforts to continue limiting disruptions while supporting student recovery. Closing the learning gap is perhaps one of the most challenging for educators and students facing today. It is important that a careful strategy is built in to smoothen the transition of children back to school after more than 2 years of school closing. While we are trying to recover from the pandemic, the impact on learning must end and help students reach their full potential.

Analysing the learning loss and how it has impacted students

The impact of the school lockdown on the learning gap between children from different social backgrounds reveals the amount of unfinished learning is far from equitable. Many students especially from disadvantaged backgrounds still need help. Many students have been reported to drop out from their studies and those especially from low-income families, are less likely to go on to postsecondary education. Some students are beginning to settle back into their pre-pandemic school routines. Inequalities in education were there before as well before the pandemic started, it has been exacerbated by the pandemic, causing some segments primarily low-income students to fall even further behind their peers. The loss of parents during the course of the pandemic has also troubled many children/students as support for studies was no longer available to them, leading to further widening of the learning gap.

As students returned to classrooms, the effects caused have become more prominent. Data suggests that the impact of the pandemic on K–12 student learning was significant, leaving students on average five months behind in mathematics and four months behind in reading by the end of the school year. While some are catching up on unfinished learning, others are falling further behind, widening pre-pandemic gaps. Unfinished learning did not vary significantly across elementary grades. Despite reports that remote learning was more challenging for early elementary students, studies suggest the impact was just as meaningful for older elementary students. Young students received more help from parents and older siblings, and older elementary students were more likely to be struggling alone. Hence, it is important to understand the impact of the pandemic on learning for all students.

Recovery will take time. Parents, teachers must realise that students showing these behaviours are common and they need help, care and support.

The pandemic’s impact goes beyond academics. Most of the parents still remain concerned about their children’s academic performance, school attendance, and mental health. While some of them are concerned that their children will not be able to cover the unfinished learning from the pandemic. It is important to understand that this has impacted their learning and social skills affecting their physical and mental health. Once the students are back to their school life, it will slowly get over and they will be back to normal. The key is to have patience and deal with the situation. Don’t force them as it will further aggravate the problems.

Strategies to help students to cope with the issues.

New strategies of learning and teaching are required. Any attempt to introduce new technologies or techniques into the classroom must be accompanied by teacher training in adaptive learning strategies, learning assessment and digital skills. Assess learning needs by determining skills and knowledge gaps based on the implemented or adjusted curriculum.

Reading, writing, maths are most affected. So it is important to help your students at home: Reinforce what the schools are teaching. During free time, allow them to read loudly and practice writing. One can help them to recall what they have learned at school and continue practicing at home.

Sign up for summer school and after-school programs that will help students recover from learning loss and mental health issues.

Authored by Dr. Ravi Kumar C P, Consultant - Paediatric Neurology, Aster CMI Hospital

Dr. Ravi Kumar C P

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