The foundations of a child's education are precisely what foundational learning and numeracy refer to. It speaks about the basics of reading, numeracy, and transferable abilities, which serve as the foundation for a lifetime of learning.
We cannot expect a child to grow without strong basic skills, just as we would not build a house without sturdy foundations. Most of the developing world's education systems do not yet have adequate educational foundations.
The attainment of foundational literacy and numeracy (FLN) for all Indian students is prioritized as an "urgent national priority" under the National Education Policy. But why is it of such importance in today’s time? Let’s take a look.
What is Foundational Literacy & Numeracy?
Before we go about dwelling on its importance, one big question arises. What are Foundational Literacy And Numeracy? When someone refers to foundational literacy and numeracy, they often imply various things to different individuals.
We are addressing the literacy & numeracy abilities that children should develop in the first few years of primary school. But as we all know, this isn't always the case; in some instances, children pick up these abilities later in school, perhaps through remedial instruction/even as adults.
But broadly speaking, when we talk about foundational literacy and numeracy, we mean developing adequate literacy & numeracy skills during the foundational schooling period.
Between the ages of three and seven, the kid attends school for the first five years, up to class 2. It's when most brain development undergoes where language & mathematical cognition are created throughout this time.
Current roadblocks in the education system:
The National Policy on Education (NEP 2020) emphasizes that numerous governmental and non-governmental surveys clearly show that we experience a severe learning crisis concerning these most fundamental abilities.
No access to foundational literacy
A significant portion of students (more than 5 crores in number) currently enrolled in primary school has not attained foundational literacy and numeracy that can read and comprehend basic text and can perform simple addition.
Lack of motivation and increased drop-out rates
According to several studies, if kids fall behind in foundational literacy and numeracy skills, their learning curves tend to stay flat for years, making it impossible for them to catch up.
With so many capable students have fallen into this tragic black hole and cannot escape. It has increasingly become a vital motivation for many students to miss classes or to stop taking them entirely.
Low family income
The pandemic has only exacerbated the learning crisis—namely, a dearth of foundational literacy and numeracy skills—worse. By the time they are 10, more than half of children in low- and middle-income households are unable to read, write, or perform elementary math. The percentage can go as high as 80% in the poorest homes. Future chances for children are limited without these fundamental abilities.
The NEP 2020 further emphasizes how critical it is to address this situation head-on and without delay to ensure that all students have the opportunity to receive a high-quality education. A national mission must ensure that all children attain fundamental literacy & numeracy skills.
This crucial goal and mission, which serves as the foundation for all future learning, must be immediately supported and encouraged by students, their schools, instructors, parents, and communities.
What does the NEP envision with Foundational Literacy & Numeracy?
The severity of the learning crisis we are currently experiencing calls for the rapid deployment of bold solutions.
An increased emphasis on foundational literacy and numeracy & generally over reading, counting, writing, speaking, arithmetic & mathematical thinking emphasizes the preparatory & middle school curriculum.
It also calls for a robust model of continuous formative/adaptive tasks to track, individualize & ensure each student's learning, according to the National Education Policy 2020.
So, how are foundational literacy and numeracy the solution?
More focus on cognitive abilities
The goal of education will be to enhance students' cognitive abilities & their character can create whole, well-rounded people who possess essential 21st-century skills. Because of this, the evaluation in our educational system will change from being summative and focusing on rote memorization abilities to being more frequent and formative.
Building a competency-based education system
The system will be competency-based, support children's learning and growth, and assess higher-order abilities, including conceptual clarity, analysis, and critical thinking. It demands the creation of a qualified teaching cadre, financial support for teacher education programs at the state, district, block, and cluster levels & funding for public schools.
Develop fundamental skills
Although it is a crucial tool for children to lay a solid foundation for higher education, a lack of high-quality learning at the foundational level stunts kids' development. The goal of foundational reading and numeracy is to teach every kid fundamental abilities from an early age.
It helps the kids even more by offering extra assistance during their later learning phases, making it crucial to concentrate on this area. The urgent requirement is to put more time and money into creating fundamental numeracy skills & focus on adaptable learning while implementing a new pedagogy in children's education.
The Way Forward
The Indian education system has successfully repositioned itself with the introduction of NEP 2020 by the Ministry of Education to prevent learning in private schools from being impacted by the physical closures of schools.
However, the fact that younger students are missing out on essential foundational learning due to inadequate technology, infrastructure, and connectivity in rural areas of the country continues to be a significant concern.
However, moving on with a hybrid blended approach to teaching: including curriculum revision, pedagogical innovations, program restructuring for teacher education, re-examining assessments, and administrative support for foundational literacy and numeracy, can foster global learning.
With the help of this innovative teaching approach, we enable every kid to know their full potential in school life and to actively participate in molding the future.
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