Remediation and Blended Learning: How Uttar Pradesh is Reopening Schools
By The EDge Editorial Team March 2021
As the new academic year begins after a year of school closures, we look at how Uttar Pradesh has resumed in-person classes. CSF interviewed Vijay Kiran Anand, the first Director-General of School Education (DGSE) in Uttar Pradesh, to understand the measures being adopted by the state considering ‘Mission Prerna’ to bridge the learning loss and way forward. Mr. Anand is also Special Secretary (Basic Education); State Project Director, Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan; and Director, Mid-day Meal Authority.
Mr. Vijay Kiran Anand, the first Director-General of School Education (DGSE) in Uttar Pradesh.
After a year of school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Uttar Pradesh has been running a back-to-school campaign to encourage children to resume in-person classes. It is also the first state to reopen schools for Classes 1-5. Would you like to talk about the campaign?
School closures due to Covid-19 has led to steeper learning losses for students across classes, especially for those in primary grades who depend on teachers to lay the foundation of their learning. The classroom scenario post school reopening therefore cannot be ‘business as usual’ for primary grades. An innovative academic strategy has been put in place to make up for the learning loss.
We have organised the ‘Prerna Gyanotsav’, a 100-day campaign to mobilise all key stakeholders to focus on Foundational Learning as children resume schooling. The ‘Prerna Gyanotsav’ is part of Mission Prerna, which is led by the Hon’ble Chief Minister. It is focused on equipping primary grade students with Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) skills. The campaign aims to reiterate the importance of FLN skills and ensure that all stakeholders including schools, teachers, and parents show active participation in helping the mission succeed.
The campaign also aims to reach out to the community to instill a feeling of belonging and responsibility towards Mission Prerna. Shiksha Chaupals are being organized at the Panchayat level to engage with the community, build awareness regarding the safety measures put in place at schools, and encourage parents to send their children to schools.
For greater parental involvement, teachers are visiting homes of students every week and informing them of their child’s performance in school, aligning them with the ‘Prerna Lakshyas’ — learning goals and targets being aimed for by Mission Prerna, and supporting them in helping achieve the targets.
Could you please tell us more about Mission Prerna and the Prerna Utsav? Given that it was rolled out before the pandemic hit, how did the mission adapt to the circumstances to ensure acquisition of FLN skills by Class 3? Or what measures have been adopted to ensure that children do not miss out on foundational skills?
We launched ‘Mission Prerna’ with the aim of ensuring that every child in grades 1-5 achieves Foundational Learning by March 2023. We outlined clear learning goals for each grade and subject through ‘Prerna Lakhshya’. For example, in grade 3, a child is expected to read at a fluency of 30 words per minute and be able to solve 75% problems related to single digit addition and subtraction. We ran a massive awareness campaign around this through WhatsApp groups, wall arts in public places and classrooms, newspaper advertisements, voice blasts, and via teachers. It is imperative that every stakeholder understands what ‘Mission Prerna’ is, why it is important, and how they can help make it a success.
When schools shuttered, we had to improvise and focus on digital learning through our ‘Mission Prerna ki e-Pathshala’. There were also several administrative and academic initiatives we undertook to ensure we would be better equipped when children resumed classroom education. We deployed more teachers, trained them, formed a 4400-strong base of Academic Resource Persons (ARPs) to conduct supportive supervision visits to each school at least once a month while developing quality teaching learning materials and transforming classrooms to be more student-friendly.
Now that children are back in school, through the ‘Prerna Gyanotsav’, our single call to action right now is remediating the learning losses that have occured over the last year to ensure ‘Mission Prerna’ is a success. The primary tool of instruction for teachers during this period would be the remediation manual that has been prepared for each grade. This manual includes a diagnostic tool or a set of simple questions for the teacher to conduct a baseline assessment of learning levels in the classroom. This will enable teachers to help children hone their competencies. These competencies are a part of the state learning outcome framework for foundational learning called the ‘Prerna Soochi’. Teachers will be informed of various techniques to address the unique learning needs of students in sync with ‘Prerna Soochi’.
The focus in the first 8 weeks will be entirely on remediation, following which grade curriculum might start. There are special workbooks that have been designed for students to help gain literacy skills.
You mentioned ‘Mission Prerna ki e-Pathshala’. Could you tell us a little more about the digital learning initiative run by the state?
Our e-Pathshala initiative focussed on providing children at home with access to quality content like TicTacLearn, Gully Gully Sim Sim, ToonMasti and content created by SCERT through teachers. We built an extensive network of 880 WhatsApp groups where learning materials were shared every morning. We leveraged television by streaming learning videos from 9am to 1pm on Doordarshan.
But we soon realized that the content dissemination through WhatsApp, television and radio was not in sync. We created a common calendar to solve that problem. We also decided to focus more on WhatsApp dissemination to increase the touchpoints for parents and students. We created a system where the DIKSHA team worked with all the content partners to ensure that the learning materials were first uploaded on the platform, following which the links were shared over WhatsApp to ensure uniformity in content dissemination.
There was also emphasis on greater parental involvement. We opened offline channels of communication between schools and parents. Teachers would call parents to the school to guide them on how to teach their children at home.
How do you see home-learning complementing classroom instruction now that schools have resumed?
Children are currently coming to school once a week. We share subject-wise material with them on WhatsApp every Monday. The textbooks have QR codes which lead students to audio-visual educational material. Essentially, we are following a blended learning model which mixes up classroom teaching with EdTech.
We are making constant efforts to provide easy access to learning material and encourage parents to engage with their children. The school closures have led to more regular communication between the teachers and parents. Teachers have been asked to build on this channel of communication and engage with parents on WhatsApp by keeping them informed of their child’s learning.