Learning loss

Learning loss

Ministry finds significant gaps due to COVID

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, December 04, 2020

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THE education ministry is reporting that in the nine months since schools were forced to close because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, students at the primary level have suffered significant setbacks.

The promised diagnostic tests that were administered to evaluate learning levels revealed that there were gaps, across all subject areas, in students' understanding of critical concepts that are needed to accelerate learning, the ministry disclosed in its submission to the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) yesterday.

“For the four subjects that we did at grade six, we have found that there is a mean score of 23 [per cent] for mathematics, 30 for language arts, 26 for social studies, and 24 for science,” permanent secretary in the education ministry Dr Grace McLean told the parliamentary committee.

At grade five, the results were slightly less bleak — 25 per cent for mathematics, 33 per cent for language arts, 32 per cent for social studies, and science 28 per cent.

The grade four scores also gave clear indication that students at the primary level have suffered significant setbacks as a result of the time out of school, with mathematics scores at 37 per cent, language arts at 43 per cent, and integrated studies at 25 per cent.

Dr McLean advised that the assessment for secondary schools has not yet been completed.

The ministry said the objectives measured by the diagnostic tests were selected after a thorough audit of the curriculum at the previous grade levels.

The majority of students received a total score greater than 50 per cent but less than 75 per cent in all subjects, the report outlined: “It was also evident that there were significant gaps in students' understanding of critical concepts needed to accelerate learning, especially in mathematics and science at grade five.”

Similar concerns were noted for the results of the grade six diagnostic tests. “It was evident that there were significant gaps in students' understanding of critical concepts needed to accelerate learning across all subject areas,” Dr McLean said.

The majority of this cohort received a total score of 50 per cent or below in all subject areas, with most of them getting just over a quarter of the questions correct.

Dr McLean stressed that the ministry will be seeking to remediate the losses through urgent intervention, starting with maths and language arts this month.

“Based on the data that we have, we are not prepared to just see it as a crisis, but we are prepared to chip away, one step at a time, to see how best we can address the learning loss,” she said, pointing to the engagement of 100 numeracy and 15 literacy specialists within the school system.

“We decided that we would start with maths and English, because we are of the opinion that once you have developed the principles in those areas then it's easier for you to learn the other areas,” she explained.

Also, in the first six weeks of schools reconvening via a three-pronged approach to teaching and learning, only 65.2 per cent of students were engaged either online, through the electronic media, or through the dissemination of printed learning material.

According to Dr McLean, this is 17 per cent less than the school attendance recorded for 2019.

The report to the committee also revealed fluctuations in successful log-ins for teachers and students across the virtual platforms sanctioned by the ministry, ranging from a high of 61,967 on day 14 of resumption of classes, to 27,815 on day 21, and the lowest of 22,561 on November 20.


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