Children learnt new skills during pandemic: Report
Though students may have lost out on academics, they used extra time productively, finds survey
Over the past year, governments and organisations conducted multiple surveys to assess and quantify the learning losses that students incurred due to the pandemic and multiple lockdowns that threw the academic schedule out of gear. The Karnataka government has conducted a similar survey, but one that focused on what students did with their spare time, and found that a majority of them developed new skills or honed existing ones, most of which are extracurricular in nature.
The Department of Public Instruction surveyed 3,672 students from classes two to ten, and found that many learnt new skills such as singing, dancing, art work, swimming and gardening. Some took to knitting, cooking, cycling and engaging in reading and writing for leisure. Many children in rural areas said they enjoyed outdoor activities like climbing trees.
The department interviewed students, from rural and urban areas, including those from government, aided and unaided private schools. Information was collected under eight categories: play, art, use of electronic media, household chores, new skills learned, nature-related activities, formal learning and economic activities.
Commissioner for Public Instruction V. Anbu Kumar, whose idea it was to conduct the survey, said while children were missing out on social interaction in the classroom, they made “significant gains and enjoyed their time” during the lockdown. “We instructed surveyors not to bombard children with questions, but to allow them to speak,” he said.
During the interviews, children also expressed joy that they could spend more time with family. They received guidance from their parents, grandparents, friends and relatives and were involved in multiple activities during the pandemic, stated the report.
Surveyors, however, observed that when it came to choice of extracurricular activities, traditional gender stereotypes are still at play. A majority of the girls surveyed were involved in art-related and household activities like cooking with the support of their mothers and grandmothers. Only a few boys took up these activities. “The issue of continuation of gender stereotypes at home may have to be discussed at parent-teacher meetings,” the report pointed out.
Mr. Anbu Kumar said they could infer that children made up for their academic losses by engaging in activities of their choice. “Such voluntary efforts have helped them pick up life lessons. We want schools to assess skills and knowledge that children have developed during the pandemic and utilise it to make formal school learning more meaningful to them.”
Box: Digital divide, financial need
The findings of the survey conducted by the Department of Public Instruction also shed light on some of the more serious problems such as access to technology and financial insecurity.
There was a stark difference in the way government / aided school children used this period when compared to those in private schools. Children in private schools were found to be using electronic media instead of getting involved in other activities.
Around 28% of the children surveyed were also engaged in activities that their families depended on for their livelihood. “This may be because of their financial situation. We have been asked to follow up and ensure that such children are given adequate support,” said a department official.