Newsletter on the Education Emergency
May 2022
Schools open. Parents desperate. Teachers in the lurch.
Children likely to face the brunt of non-learning over the next DECADE.
Drawing of a 12-storey building with the bottom two built with sticks
Multi-storey on sticks
NCEE Logo. Fund Schools. Renew Education.
Since February/March 2022, schools have opened across the country, although even now, there is talk of closing them again due to new coronavirus variants. The National Coalition on the Education Emergency (NCEE) has brought out guidelines for “resuming and renewing education” (A Future at Stake).
It is continuing its efforts to address the crisis, by focusing on building awareness and advocating with governments and other actors, to address the educational needs of children. However, it appears that only a few states have taken cognizance of the impact of the pandemic on education and begun conscious efforts for educational recovery.
Measures Taken by the States
Tamil Nadu

Illam Thedi Kalvi (“Education at Doorstep”), a program to support student learning with after-school activities and lessons, through village volunteers in local community spaces, was initiated last year. The Nam Paḷḷi Nam Perumai (“Our school, Our pride”) program focuses on reconstituting and strengthening School Management Committees, to bring schools and communities together, and rejuvenate community participation in education. Democraticizing science education, digital content creation by teachers, including in Maths using GeoGebra, as also the Eṇṇum Ezhuthum (“Counting and Writing”) initiative, focusing on multilevel learning are underway. The first year’s material, being rolled out now, consists of Activity Based Learning + Level Based Learning, which aims to help children learn at their own level. These programs have a specific focus on learning recovery post the pandemic.

The School Education department of Karnataka has launched Kalika Chetarike (‘learning recovery’), a comprehensive programme to address learning deprivation across all grades. A reconfigured curriculum has been drawn up for the upcoming academic year and teachers, principals, schools and department officials have been instructed that syllabus level teaching, without efforts to recover learning, should not be resumed. A portfolio of Teaching–Learning-Materials (TLMs) and a teacher handbook have been developed to support teachers in the classroom to assess children, group them, use relevant TLMs, etc. A detailed plan has also been developed for developing 2,000 master resource persons (MRPs) who in-turn will work with 250,000 teachers. The summer holidays have been cut short to compensate for lost school days, the academic year begins from May 15. The NCEE is in discussions with the DSERT to explore making the Kalika Chetarike content available on the MediaWiki platform (used in our education support program earlier), to allow for the continuous revision and curation of resources.

The SCERT has come up with the 'Nava-Jatan’ Setu 2.0 programme to recover learning deprivation. While the government’s recognition of the need for such a program is noteworthy, the approach being taken seems to be quite traditional with emphasis on “bringing children below grade level up to their grade level”. The department has announced that children’s current learning levels have been assessed by means of a baseline assessment that covered 96% of the children across the state, and that continuous evaluation of children’s learning levels will be done every 15 days to track progress. Top-down measures to “bridge” learning seem to indicate a lack of faith in teachers. It will lead to increased burden on teachers, of reporting, potential data fudging and eventually ineffective implementation. Special trainings are being conducted to help teachers implement the curriculum. Master trainers will be trained in the initial phase who will then impart training to all school teachers across the state.
While programs to support teacher preparation are essential, they must be regular and ongoing, instead of one-off events, focusing only on “bridging gaps”.
* The above is an indicative list and does not cover all the states that are taking measures in regard to the education emergency. If you have any inputs on any other state, do share with us.
Updates from the NCEE
Bringing to the fore parents’ experiences and perspectives that reflect the critical situation on the ground, the NCEE released the ‘Cries of Anguish’ report based on the rapid parents’ survey conducted in Karnataka, Telangana and Tamil Nadu. Findings from the study conducted by the NCEE reveal fears of parents about the devastating toll that school closures have taken on the learning, socio-emotional development and behaviour of children, and their desperation about the educational futures of their children. The report underlines the need for policy makers to understand ground realities while developing educational policies and programmes. The study was was widely reported in the media and also referenced in the Universal Periodic Review of the Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN of March 2022.
Callouts of key messages from the survey
State Governments' Convention

The recovery and renewal of education will require a collective and sustained effort organized over multiple years. In this regard, the coalition is trying to make a suggestion to  state governments to come together to share experiences, learn from each other and formulate a common framework in the spirit of co-operative federalism. An appeal was made to the Tamil Nadu government to spearhead this effort. NCEE intends to pursue similar initiative with Governments of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
Violations of Educational Rights of Hijab-wearing Women

Over 2,600 eminent child rights activists, educators and institutions, including Dr. Jean Dreze, Dr. Padma Sarangapani, Dr. R. Ramanujam, Dr. Shantha Sinha, RTE Forum leaders endorsed a statement by the NCEE on the targeting and exclusion of hijab wearing Muslim women students in Karnataka, which actively prevented them from attending classes and examinations. Condemning the High Court’s ruling which upheld the restrictions, the statement highlighted that in addition to the violation of rights to freedom and equality, the move, in spirit, also violates their right to education, specially at a time when educational status of students is already under threat. Such steps divert scarce energies which are required to address the education emergency.
Public Hearing on Impact of Covid on Children's Education

A public hearing on the impact of COVID on children’s education was held in March, and NCEE was part of the jury that heard the grievances of parents and children across Karnataka. Parents’ concerns included lack of resources to pay fees, leading to children dropping out, non-issuance of TCs by private schools which is keeping thousands of children out of school, and the hardships of children from marginalised sections.
Parents at the public hearing
The report prepared by the jury highlights the need to increase budgetary allocations to departments dealing with children, and urges the government to to create awareness among parents on availing TC from private schools despite non-payment of fees or arrears.
Education Emergency: What Must We Do?

Detailing the measures to be taken by school systems to address the challenges of access and learning, Uma Kogekar, CEO of CEQUE and a core member of the NCEE lays out the dos and don’ts for school reopening in this note.
Coalition Meeting

Members of the NCEE met on 29th January 2022 to review work done, discuss the situation across the country and plans for the work of the NCEE. Suggested Priorities:
  1. Network with other groups and associations such as teachers groups, SMC/SDMCs, women’s rights groups, dalit groups, etc. to bring forth collective critical voices.
  2. Persuade state governments to come together in the spirit of co-operative federalism, transcending party politics to share ideas, experiences and resources amongst themselves and to facilitate education to become a mass movement of the people for emancipation and social justice.
  3. Improve media outreach to bring education deprivation into focus.
  4. Research work on education finance, and understand experiences of teachers, students, parents and other stakeholders.
Minutes of the meeting can be accessed here. A larger meeting of all NCEE members is planned later this month.
Digital technologies’ role in education has been growing over the years and has increased exponentially during the pandemic. There are apprehensions that this process has aggravated stratification and exclusion in education and has hollowed out the essential processes of education. There is hence, a need to build a deeper understanding of the benefits and harms from technology integration in education (“Edtech”). The NCEE aims to conduct a series of consultations through a collaboration of civil society actors, to explore and develop shared understanding of critical and constructive perspectives on Ed-tech, and build a broader network of scholars, practitioners, government officials, media, etc. to pursue knowledge building (through research) and provide inputs to policy and practice.
Webinar: "Right Digitalization" in Education?

As a first of such series, the NCEE co-organised a webinar on “Right Digitalization” in Education? on 23rd April from 4:00 to 5:30 PM where there was a panel discussion with Prof. Geetha Nambissan and Prof. Rajaram Sharma, followed by an open discussion with educators, activists, scholars, NGOs, etc. Key challenges with the way in which ed-tech is evolving and operating in the current context, what needs to be done, and what should be the key principles for integrating technology meaningfully in education were discussed.

Fueling the Pedagogy Market?

Prof. Ramanujam in his article Technology as exclusion in education writes “digital technology is increasingly being touted as the major harbinger of change in education.. It is true that digital tools can break the monotony of classrooms, and can open doors to the bigger world. However, the interests of technology creators and their ability to view the world from the eyes of the poorest may be very limited. The pedagogy market is principally aimed at the urban affluent sections. The tall claims of digital technology today, the tremendous push from the EdTech companies and the pedagogy market, and the governmental vision that seeks easy technological solutions to complex social problems, all act towards social exclusion and aid the withdrawal of the state from its fundamental duty of providing universal quality education.”

Coalition in the news
Graphic banner of the key message from the NCEE survey
NCEE’s study involving rapid households survey in 3 states in the media:
Parents see decline in learning, behavioural changes in children during Covid-19 pandemic: Study (The Hindu)
70%-80% parents fear learning loss in children: NCEE survey (The Times of India)
Most Parents Report Behaviour Changes, Learning Losses (The Quint)
Education Emergency: The crisis and efforts to address it
“The repercussions are being seen currently in the form of drop-outs, lack of interest and engagement among students, students being unable to learn because of the gap in their learning levels and the grade level teaching in schools, but it will also have long-term impacts that would affect higher education enrollment, employment, future earnings, intellectual capacities of future citizens and enabling meaningful participation in a democracy.”
Map of India depicting states relative reductions in Education budgets for 2021-22
Data check: Twelve Indian states have reduced the share of education in their Budget allocations
Overall, 19 of 21 states are estimated to have spent less than what they set out to in 2020-’21. That is, their revised estimates were lower than their Budget estimates for that year as per the policy tracker released by NCEE.
Covid and Education News
Students seated masked in a classroom
With school closures fuelling inequality, fears grow that a whole generation might be lost
Without urgent action, many countries could end up without the skilled workers they need for their future development, says UNICEF’s head of education.
Gathering of parents at the public hearing
As incomes dry up, families in Bengaluru slums forced to pull kids out of school
As per government figures, over 15 crore children in India have dropped out of school since the pandemic struck, and the national dropout rate stands at 17% in upper primary grades.
Two students masked
The post-pandemic crisis in schooling and higher education portends a grim future for India’s students, especially the poor
Schooling will grow still more divisive than before, reversing whatever progress government schools had made. The likely results range from a higher dropout rate to a resurgence of illiteracy, writes Sukanta Chaudhuri
Two girl students, one wearing the Hijab and one not wearing the Hijab
Hijab row likely to hit education of Muslim women, experts fear
Several writers and activists from the Muslim community, and education experts have expressed fear that the standoff may likely hit the recent progress made on the front of educating Muslim girls.
Still capture of Karan Thapar interviewing Dr. Anurag Behar
'Karnataka Is Doing Everything Right to Address Crisis in Education Left By Pandemic'
In an interview with Karan Thapar, Dr. Anurag Behar of the Azim Premji Foundation talks about the approaches being used by the Karnataka government to address learning losses resulting from the pandemic.
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Media articles are updated regularly and available on the Education Emergency portal
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