A learning gap is like the omnipresent speed breaker that has been normalized in our education system. When students pass from one grade to another or move from one semester to another, we have normalized that not every skill has been adequately grasped by each of them.
The pressures of the syllabus, exams, and academic timeframes are such that there's no option but to accept this reality. It's not practical nor economically viable to expect anything else. Academicians have written at length about this topic, and several seminars and webinars have discussed it, but it's tough to bridge this gap in the real-world scenario.
The assumption is that COVID has widened this gap multifold. However, in a webinar hosted by Times NIE and Stones2Milestones, this assumption was powerfully challenged. The speakers, Mr. Anjum Rajaballi and Ms. Aditi Mehta, had these insightful points to share:
1. It's the Time to
Disco Be More Inventive
Mr. Rajaballi, one of India's top screenwriters, beautifully explained this point -
"We are striving to feel normal, like how normal used to be."
In reality, we need to break free from that definition and be more inventive. It's time to really introspect on whether grades and exams and such metrics are the only way to measure a students' performance. This will also help us reassess the very definition of a learning gap.
2. Redefining a Student's Worth and Value
Building on the previous point, Mr. Rajaballi said -
"Board exams, the most important determining episode of one's future was gone in the pandemic. Poof!"
This should be key to re-imagining other ways to assess a student's performance, worth and value. Gaps are also determined by narrow definitions of this value. If the learning is given more importance to, and exams and assessments are re-imagined, the gaps will automatically lessen.
3. Is Learning Only Defined by Academics?
Aditi had a powerful point to share.
She spoke about how while children may not have grown academically, as per rigid definitions of success in exams, they did develop as people.
They learned new technology, they taught their parents how to use new technology; young kids even taught their parents and grandparents how to wear masks properly and maintain social distancing. We cannot afford to ignore this learning. Therefore, a huge learning gap was actually bridged already in this way, and it had nothing to do with academics.
4. Digital Training and Infrastructure
As Aditi mentioned, if anything -
"...the pandemic has given us an incredible pilot on bridging the learning gap." We have seen the sheer possibilities of digital.
We have seen the power of community and the power of investing in better systems at work and school. This is going to go a long way in bridging learning gaps in the future.
The pandemic has encouraged us to chase richer, more meaningful lives. It has shown that the definition of both, 'learning' and 'gap' needs to be re-imagined for us to encourage students to be stronger learners.
You can watch the whole webinar here.