4 steps to speed up recovery from post-pandemic ‘learning loss’


Since yesterday’s pandemic, we have often heard the term learning loss or a decline in students’ academic knowledge and skills. Our previous article discussed the potential for recovery from learning loss .

Interestingly, some schools and students can recover from learning loss more quickly than others .

What factors accelerated the recovery?

1. Curriculum adjustments

The literature shows that curricula in developing countries tend to have ambitious learning targets. Indonesia , for example, has curriculum targets that are not only numerous but also tend to be higher than international targets.

In the 2013 Curriculum, calculating the addition of numbers up to 99 is a competency that must be mastered by Grade 1 students. However, according to the Global Proficiency Framework Sustainable Development Goals (GPF SDG), this ability should be mastered by Grade 2 students. GPF SDG describes the minimum proficiency level in reading and mathematics at a global level that students from grades one to grade nine are expected to master.

Another example, determining relationships between standardized units of measurement (for example, kg, g, m, and cm) is a competency that must be mastered by Grade 3 students in the 2013 Curriculum, but this is expected to be mastered by Grade 6 students in the GPF SDG.

Our study shows that students whose teachers made curriculum adjustments during the pandemic experienced 4 months faster recovery in learning outcomes compared to students whose teachers did not make curriculum adjustments.

Curriculum adjustments made by teachers generally focus on basic literacy and numeracy skills. These basic abilities are a prerequisite for students to learn more complex knowledge and skills at the next level. For example, for literacy skills, teachers focus on teaching children about letter sounds, letter recognition, syllables and words as initial capital for students to be able to read fluently.

This learning adaptation is carried out by teachers either independently or referring to the emergency curriculum , namely the simplified 2013 Curriculum, which has been provided by the government.

Ideally, curriculum targets are determined based on an evaluation of students’ cognitive development and learning abilities, so that students can get learning experiences that suit their needs.

2. Adapting learning

Apart from curriculum adjustments, differentiated learning has also been proven to speed up learning recovery by the equivalent of 2-3 months.

Differentiated learning provides opportunities for teachers to adjust learning according to students’ different abilities based on diagnostic assessments . Diagnostic assessment is an initial assessment carried out by teachers to identify students’ competencies, strengths and weaknesses.

For example, in one of the schools we observed, teachers grouped students based on their basic literacy abilities. The teacher uses picture and letter cards (a picture of an apple and the letter A) for children who don’t know letters. Meanwhile, for children who already know words, the teacher gives them word fragments so that the children can construct sentences. Finally, for children who are already able to read, the teacher uses a picture story book and asks the children to answer questions from the story.

Differentiated learning is not meant to differentiate students, but provides opportunities for teachers to adjust learning instructions, assignments, and learning media. This approach allows students to get equal learning opportunities to continue to develop according to their potential.

3. Active teacher participation

We also found that teachers who actively participated in competency development activities during the pandemic had students with faster learning recovery (equivalent to 3 months) compared to teachers who did not participate in competency development activities.

Unfortunately, our other studies found that teacher participation in Teacher Working Group (KKG) activities, namely professional activity groups for SD/MI teachers who are still in the same cluster/sub-district, tends to decline during the pandemic due to regional restrictions and school closures.

Therefore, it is important for stakeholders, both regional and national, to ensure that all teachers, especially those who currently have more limited opportunities, develop their professional capacity both face-to-face in KKG and online training activities.

4. Stakeholder support

Apart from teacher factors, the leadership of the school principal and government support are key factors in restoring learning.

School principals who actively provide regular assistance to teachers tend to have students with faster learning recovery equivalent to 5 months of learning. Likewise, school principals who during the pandemic had a special program to restore the learning process, the learning recovery was 3 months faster.

On the other hand, assistance from the government, both material and technical support, to support distance learning is important in encouraging school principals and teachers to carry out their duties at school. Schools that during the pandemic received government assistance in the form of internet quotas, computers, or monetary incentives to carry out offline learning at meeting points, had students with learning recovery that was 3 months faster than those that did not.

In Bima, West Nusa Tenggara, for example, teachers at one elementary school said they received assistance in the form of internet quota and transportation incentives to carry out offline learning at meeting points. This assistance makes it easier for them to carry out online and face-to-face classes. Apart from that, assistance also helps students access study materials and additional reading sources more easily and learn independently.

However, another elementary school teacher in the same area said he did not receive quota assistance at all and only stopped at the telephone number registration stage. This makes it very difficult for them to distribute materials, so many students lose access to learning during the pandemic.

The findings of our study confirm that accelerating recovery from learning loss is not impossible. However, this acceleration requires adjustments and system changes involving teachers, school principals and stakeholders to create an optimal learning environment for students.

Author Bios: George Adam Sukoco is a Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, Anisah H. Zulfa is a Junior Researcher, Rasita Ekawati Purba is Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Learning Manager (MERL Manager) all three at Innovation for Indonesian School Children (INOVASI) and Senza Arsendy who is a PhD Student in Sociology at The University of Melbourne