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Study showing home-learning cuts maths ability by 50% rings alarm bells in Thailand

Jan 19. 2021
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By The Nation

The government’s Equitable Education Fund (EEF) has presented research showing students lose 50 per cent of their maths knowledge and 30 per cent of their reading literacy after prolonged home-learning away from school. Thousands of Thai students are learning from home after all schools in 28 provinces under maximum Covid-19 controls were closed earlier this month. As a result, learning conditions have deteriorated, said EEF education economist Pumsaran Tongliemnak on Monday.

He cited a study by the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) which found that spending a long time at home cut students’ maths knowledge by half and their reading literacy by almost a third. Learning via screens affects mental health as well as social and emotional development, Pumsaran commented.

The NWEA study’s results are consistent with research from Massachusetts’ Institute of Technology (MIT) which shows learning through educational technology alone does not compensate for non-school effects such as declining knowledge, lack of social experience, poor access to proper nutrition and also age-appropriate study.

Pumsaran said that although Thailand has yet to study the affect of Covid-19 on education, there was enough available evidence to predict inequality impacts on Thai education in two key areas.

These were students falling out of the education system, and a decline in learning and health development among vulnerable groups – especially disadvantaged children, those in remote areas, children with disabilities, and those who need special education.

Pumsaran predicted that prolonged home-schooling would widen the education inequality gap between rural and city children by two school years. In the long-term, it may affect economic inequality by causing the cycle of poverty across generations to continue, he added.

Kraiyos Patrawart, deputy managing director at EEF, said Thailand’s educational inequality in the three years before Covid-19 had improved among the poorest households in terms of class absence rate.

However, the fresh Covid-19 outbreak had meant that 143,507 extremely poor children in the 28 “maximum control” provinces could have no school for two semesters or 40 per cent of the academic year.

“The biggest concern is children’s learning development and growth. We should make the most of the remaining three months [of the academic year] if schools can open as normal, with teachers checking students' health and learning, running after-school programmes, and monitoring the gap of classes for children in remote areas,” said Kraiyos.

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