Foundational Literacy and Numeracy – Points to Ponder - Nalanda Learning

Foundational Literacy and Numeracy – Points to Ponder

Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) refers to the “ability of children to read with meaning and solve basic math problems by the end of Class 3”. These are critical gateway skills that form the foundation for children on which they build their lives. This is precisely why augmenting FLN is fast becoming a national mission, as encapsulated in the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.

Class 3 is the inflexion point by which children are expected to ‘learn to read’ so that later they can ‘read to learn’. It is now a proven fact that those who fail to attain these basic literacy and numeracy skills find it difficult to catch up in later years and risk dropping out of school. Therefore, the future of our children and India’s ambition of maximizing its demographic dividend depend to a very great extent on whether children attain these basic reading and maths skills by Class 3.

FLN – the real picture

However, to put things in the right perspective, FLN levels are abysmally low in India. According to a study by ACER (2018), as many as 72.8 per cent of children could not read a simple class 2-level sentence, while 82 per cent of the children could not solve a basic subtraction problem by class 3. This “Learning Crisis” has been made worse by Covid and the percentage of children across grades 2-6 who have lost at least one specific language or mathematical ability due to school closures during the pandemic is frightening. According to the study “Loss of Learning during the Pandemic (2021)” by Azim Premji University, 92% lost at least one language ability while 82% lost at least one mathematical ability.

The challenges ahead

The Indian education system has long been plagued with the menace of rote learning. Judging performance based on FLN mastery, experts opine will likely lead to the intensification of rote learning to avoid bad results. This fear of failing in standardized assessments perpetuates the way for “teaching to the test” — where teaching, resources, and time are all redirected away from learning towards mere assessment mastery, which needless to say, is self-defeating. Such a system, if left unchecked, can lead to a state with children in elite and high-fee private schools getting to focus on rich and holistic content and the other end with marginalized children in low-fee schools, who will not be able to go much beyond these foundational skills.

The Nalanda Solution

The Nalanda Learning System, which has evolved ground up over the last many years addresses all these concerns and has built-in checks and balances to ensure that not only is FLN instituted in letter, but also in spirit.