Literacy

Almost 6 million primary, secondary students at risk of learning loss

Around 6 million primary and secondary students are at risk of learning loss due to the extended closure of the educational institutions in the country amid the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a study report revealed Monday.

Since the closure of schools in March 2020, there have been severe disruptions in the education of children, especially those from low-income groups.

The extended closure has led to far-reaching consequences including an increased risk of learning losses, dropouts, and psychological and economic costs, says the survey "Covid-19 Impact on Education Life of Children."

Also read: Schools for over 168mn children globally shut for almost a full year: UNICEF

Some 3.42 million are primary school students and 2.50 million secondary school students are now at risk of learning loss.

Power and Participation Research Center (PPRC) and Brac Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) jointly conducted the rapid telephonic survey between April 2020 and March 2021 to assess the impact of Covid-19 on poverty. It used samples from 6,099 households with around 4,940 consisting of school-going-age children.

Between June 2020 and March 2021, the out-of-pocket expenditure for education increased 11 times. The crisis has increased the opportunity cost of investing in education. Some 8% of school-going boys and 3% of school-going girls are in some form of income-earning activity.

Without targeted remedial measures, the situation will lead to reduced learning capacity or risk of dropouts in future, says the study.

The survey also revealed that only around 10% of students had access to or used distance learning opportunities to compensate for school closure; public TV classes were viewed by only around 2%.

Some 51% in primary and 61% secondary students went to coaching or private tuition. However, it was lower in urban compared to rural primarily due to higher costs.

Even in pre-pandemic times, a greater proportion of secondary school-going-age children were out of school (21%) than primary (14%). More children were out of school in urban slums than rural areas at both primary and secondary levels.

"A significant portion of school-going children are at risk of learning loss. So, school reopening must be coupled with a set of remedial measures to cover the learning loss and help children to cope up," said BIGD Executive Director Dr Imran Matin.

PPRC Chair Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman focused on three main consequences of school closures – learning loss, education cost burdens, and multidimensional social alienation.

He said outside class hours, additional programmes are required as a learning loss recovery strategy to mitigate the loss as part of a post-Covid human capital agenda. "Otherwise, a large part of our population will not only be far removed from education but also become deskilled," he added.

Dr Zillur recommended that existing primary and secondary stipend programmes be used to redress the out-of-pocket education cost burdens.

"Using the established database, the government can quickly provide a cash boost by allocating Tk2,960 crore in the 2021-22 budget," he said.

Source: United News of Bangladesh