EdTech Report: T4 Insights – COVID learning losses

May 26, 2022

Tech limitations and education assessment methods failed to identify COVID learning losses and piled pressure on teachers in low- and middle-income countries, new report reveals

EdTech Report: T4 Insights - COVID learning losses

New study in six low- and middle-income countries by T4 Education in collaboration with EdTech Hub finds that effective EdTech tools and techniques for progress monitoring in an online environment are essential if governments are to address learning gaps that have widened during the pandemic.

Tech limitations, including the high cost of data, and education assessment methods failed to accurately gauge student progress and identify learning losses created by COVID and piled pressure on teachers at a critical time, a new report released today by T4 Education in collaboration with EdTech Hub finds. The report, titled ‘Effective Assessment and Progress Monitoring in an Online Environment’, provides a vital insight into how tools and techniques for monitoring progress need to be improved if governments are to address learning gaps widened during the pandemic.

The study was conducted to understand how, during the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers and school leaders in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) approached assessing progress when students were learning remotely. The study was undertaken in six countries – Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, and South Africa – and was based on focus group discussions with teachers and school leaders in each country.

The report reveals how EdTech tools such as free-to-use multiple-choice quizzing tools like Google Forms were widely used and comparatively easy to deploy when students had good digital access during lockdown, and that these had a positive impact on student engagement. However, limited student access to digital devices and poor connectivity was often a challenge. Many students in LMICs had to share a device with parents or siblings and were only able to use it in the evenings or weekends, with younger siblings especially missing out. Teachers would often have to turn to asynchronous approaches to keep track of their learning. In these instances, teachers often sent resources on WhatsApp or links to a third-party quizzing tool. Some students, however, were unable to access even a shared device and teachers had to rely on others in the community to help them submit their work.

The cost of mobile data also proved a big issue for students and teachers in LMICs. Students’ parents who had lost their jobs during the pandemic and had seen their income drop were suddenly faced with further hardships including data costs for virtual learning.  Teachers often had to utilise their own devices and data to communicate with students at personal expense. In many low-resource settings, teachers relied on recorded WhatsApp voice messages, asking simple comprehension questions to assess progress in a data-efficient manner.

The report highlighted cheating as a challenge, with many teachers noticing scores in regular assessments significantly outperforming typical averages. Many also noted that when schools returned to in-person instruction scores fell. In some instances, parents were coaching their children during formal tests, and in two reported instances parents attempted to bribe teachers to take tests for their children. Some teachers across the six countries studied used features in EdTech tools to mitigate this such as shuffling questions and using timed quizzes.

Across the six countries studied, the pressure of attempting to ensure learning continued and progress was monitored effectively online created extremely inefficient workflows for teachers reliant on receiving hundreds of WhatsApp messages a day from students. This created significant workloads, stress, and often direct financial costs for teachers. The lack of student access to devices during the day often meant teachers working into the night.

Infrastructure limitations in LMICs also meant student assessment data was not gathered and stored in a structured way. Without this, policymakers would be unable to understand what is working and what is not, where student learning gaps are, and what support is needed.

Verna Lalbeharie, Executive Director of EdTech Hub, said:

“There is no piece of technology that can replace the art of good teaching. This was true before the pandemic and has been deeply underscored in the last two years. What we can do, however, is enhance that art by providing teachers with evidence-based, effective tools and assessment systems which are essential to tackling learning losses in LMICs exacerbated by the pandemic. And drawing on the lessons learned in this report, we can prepare for and properly monitor student progress the next time a crisis forces schools to close.”

You can access the full report here: https://t4.education/t4-insights/reports/effective-assessment-and-progress-monitoring


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EdTech Hub is a global research partnership. Our goal is to empower people by giving them the evidence they need to make decisions about technology in education. Through an integrated approach that marries research, technical assistance and innovation, EdTech Hub works to address the educational challenges faced by low- and middle-income countries around the world – specifically Bangladesh, Ghana, Kenya, Pakistan, Sierra Leone and Tanzania – by collaborating with partners to provide governments with the resources to effectively integrate EdTech into their education systems. We are supported by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, World Bank, and UNICEF. Learn more at www.edtechhub.org.

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