The Department of Basic Education says the closure of schools and disruptions to learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic have resulted in a reversal of gains made in the past 20 years. Picture: Chris Collingridge.
The Department of Basic Education says the closure of schools and disruptions to learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic have resulted in a reversal of gains made in the past 20 years. Picture: Chris Collingridge.

DBE says Covid-19 reversed education gains made in the past 20 years

By Chulumanco Mahamba Time of article published Aug 23, 2021

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Johannesburg - The Department of Basic Education says the closure of schools and disruptions to learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic have resulted in a reversal of gains made in the past 20 years.

The department is concerned about the learning losses incurred since the pandemic began last year.

“We have begun to measure Covid19 related learning losses by comparing how much children learnt in 2020 with how much they learnt in a normal school year before that.

“These measures indicate between 50% and 75% of a normal year’s worth of learning was lost in 2020,” said Dr Stephen Taylor, director for research at the DBE.

The department said the delay in the start of the 2021 academic year and the extended absence of learners from school would have a long lasting negative impact on society and the sector.

“We only have this information for certain grades, but it is likely learners across grades and subjects would have been similarly affected,” Taylor said.

The basic education sector lost a week in the extended winter school holiday, resulting in a reduction of school days as initially scheduled.

It was likely that learning losses would have been greater in poorer communities, where children have less access to remote learning and home support, the department said.

“The impact on early childhood development (ECD) is likely to have been significant since attendance rates at ECD centres also dropped considerably.”

A recent National Income Dynamics Study – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey Wave five report revealed the school dropout rate in SA has tripled from 230 000 preCovid-19 to about 750 000 in May.

Assuming the schooling system is unable to catch up to pre-pandemic trajectories, the DBE predicts that “learning losses in primary school may lead to an increase in dropouts in Grades 10, 11 and 12 among learners with weak learning foundations.

There’s an urgent need to recover lost learning, by preventing further disruptions to school time and introducing measures to catch up.

“Children remain at low risk to Covid. Comprehensive safety protocols in schools and teacher vaccination created the possibility to keep schools open and return to everyday attendance,” the DBE said.

The Star

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