Recovering from school closures: How can schools benefit from baseline assessments?

– Nitin Yadav, Regional Lead – South Asia, Centre for Evaluation & Monitoring (CEM), Cambridge University Press & Assessment.

Since its outbreak two years ago, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted education systems globally, affecting the most vulnerable learners the hardest. Today, despite the Omicron variant, schools are open in most countries, supported by health and safety protocols and vaccination programmes. But with students having lost months of time in the classroom the long-term impact on learning, well-being and motivation could be tremendous. Prioritizing education as a public good is crucial to avoid a generational catastrophe and drive a sustainable recovery.

In the absence of traditional schooling during the pandemic, it’s to be expected that some learning loss has occurred. It takes time to adapt to distance-learning and international studies have already highlighted the difficulties schools faced when they had to suddenly move all lessons online.

What schools should expect to see

Teachers can expect an erosion of students’ basic academic skills due to lack of practice, however learning loss is not the only issue that schools will be facing. Some students will experience demotivation as they fall further behind, and the curbing of their educational aspirations.

There will be other students who are going to have difficulty re-connecting with school and educational activities, especially those who might have found school an anxious place to begin with.

Post-pandemic learning loss recovery

The OECD paper on the long-term impact of school closures due to COVID-19 highlights the importance of collecting accurate, valid and reliable data and engaging in diagnostic assessments to understand what students know and how much they have been impacted as soon as schools possibly can once they have returned.

Mass education departments across states have asked teachers to design recovery strategies for children based on the results of baseline assessments conducted after in-person classes resume.

What schools can do to support recovery

Good educators use evidence about students’ performance to make informed decisions about teaching and learning. Schools can capture reliable data by implementing baseline assessments and monitoring systems, such as those provided by  the Centre for Evaluation & Monitoring (CEM), which is a part of Cambridge University Press and Assessment. As part of the approach to support students’ return to school, baseline assessments can help teachers to:

  • Identify any gaps in learning and understand students’ core competencies
  • Develop teaching and learning plans, personalised developmental pathways, and interventions
  • Ensure all students are on track to achieve the best outcomes.

Using a standardised baseline assessment that is founded on robust research will help teachers understand what level each student is at and make the best possible decisions to set realistic and motivational targets. The assessments also provide a way to measure progress once back in the classroom.

Schools and educators, whether in urban centres or in semi urban / rural areas, should be encouraged to make baseline testing a due process. Their assessment tests should measure learners’ aptitude in core skills and ideally should be computer-based so that results are provided automatically.

Laying strong foundations for the future

Baseline assessment and monitoring progress against established performance indicators is now more crucial than ever for students as they resume their educational journey by returning to school. If  schools have a system like this in place where they  have regular high-quality, highly valid, reliable and robust assessments,  teachers will be better prepared, more resilient and more able to adapt to situations like this that might occur in the future.

Also read:

Pandemic-induced school closures affected 25 crore Indian children: UNICEF

Cambridge English launches innovative assessment and preparation packages to support learners

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