Mitigating Learning Loss and Drop Outs Due to School Closures

By:

Chan Yit Fei

Affiliations:

Agora Society Malaysia

Policy Code:

3f Education

Problem Statement:

Background:
Prolonged school closures can not only impede children’s learning in school, but can also have long-term negative impacts on their education, such as reduced schooling attainment and cognitive skills over their lifetime. The World Bank estimates that approximately $10 trillion in earnings could be lost to the current cohort of learners due to lower levels of learning and their potential for dropping out of school.

Specific targeted issues:
1. Challenges measuring and validating learning: postponement, cancellation or administering examinations online raise serious concerns about fairness, especially when access to learning becomes variable. Replacement of public assessment such as UPSR and PT3 with school-based assessments without a standard outlined for each school level present challenges in learning validation. Disruptions to assessments results in stress for students and their families and can trigger disengagement.
2. Parents unprepared for distance and home schooling: When schools close, parents are often asked to facilitate the learning of children at home and can struggle to perform this task. This is especially true for parents with limited education and resources.
3. Challenges creating, maintaining, and improving distance learning: moving learning from classrooms to homes at scale and in a hurry presents enormous challenges to the students, the teachers and the parents.The challenges for under-privileged learners are particularly bigger as they tend to have fewer access to educational resources and opportunities beyond school, and are less well-equipped with digital devices and skills needed for better distance learning outcomes.
4. Foreseeable rise in dropout rates.

Value(s) and Belief(s):

1. Reduce or the impact of school closures on accessibility of education (drop out and truancy)
2. Reduce learning gap between students across the digital divide.
3. Reduce harms to student’s mental wellbeing due to learning loss and loss of social isolation.
4. Empowerment of schools to run school-based curriculum.

Proposal of Solution:

1. Set up a task force to assess the impact of learning loss nationwide, particular the impact on basic literacy (reading, numeracy and cognitive).
2. Based on the findings, replan, and reformulate contents of curriculum to one that:
a. Reduce overlapping subject matter content by emphasising on core ideas and pre-requisite contents essential at appropriate level which enabling future learning. By removing less-essential contents, to a significant level that allows learning to remain meaningful and manageable by the students within the remaining available school years/calendars.
b. Introduce new curriculum that address new needs of the students due to the pandemic, for instance, independent/collaborative learning skills, skills that help students cope with mental stress, anxiety, depressions, or suicidal thoughts, skills that build resilience that can help students face hardships in their lives.
c. Strategically prolong and shift the academic session based on the needs to recapturing the two-years loss of teaching and learning, if necessity.
3. School programmes that aim at preventing students at risks of dropping out from leaving schools:
a. Identify and reach out to students at risks
b. introduce project based learning that situates interests, bridges learning with real life situation (relevance of learning), and help students develop important generic skills such as leadership, data collection, problem solving.
c. Design extracurricular activities and school life experiences that promote social connectedness.
4. Personalised/differentiated remedial classes in accordance with the adjusted curriculum and student’s personal need. It should not be extension of school hours intended at simply compressing contents of the current curriculum into shorter time frame.

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