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Countries should commit to FLN for all entering class 3 by 2033: Manjul Bhargava

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PUNE, June 19 (PTI): G20 countries should commit to ensuring Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) for all children entering class 3 by 2033 as several surveys indicate severe learning crisis concerning these basic skills, renowned Indian-American mathematician Manjul Bhargava said on Monday.

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Bhargava, who is member of the Education Ministry’s panel developing the National Curriculum Framework (NCF), also emphasised on dedicated financing, resources, legislation and international commitments to ensure the goal is achieved.

During a session at the fourth and final Education Working Group (EWG) meeting of the G20 here, Bhargava noted that there is need for a developmentally appropriate curriculum that is responsive and relevant to learners’ developmental needs and interests at different stages of their development.

“G20 countries should commit to Foundational Literacy and Numeracy for all children entering grade 3 by 2033. I am hopeful that the member countries can make this commitment during the upcoming G20 Education Ministers’ meeting. There needs to be a continued collaboration amongst the member countries and the world by sharing experiences, best practices, and lessons learnt to promote foundational learning.

“There should be committed financing, resources, legislation, and G20 and other international commitments to ensure that universal FLN is achieved,” he said.

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FLN is the ability to read and write simple text and perform basic operations with numbers.

According to UNESCO, the percentage of children and adolescents not achieving Minimum Proficiency Levels in Mathematics and reading as per 2030 target of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is 14 per cent in development countries  and up to 50 per cent in developing countries.

“Once students fall behind on foundational skills, they tend to maintain flat learning curves for years, perpetually unable to catch up. For many students, this has become a major reason for not attending school or for dropping out altogether. Surveys indicate that we are in a severe learning crisis concerning these most basic skills,” he said.

“Foundational learning provides the building blocks for all other learning, knowledge, and higher order skills that children and youth need to acquire through education. Literacy and numeracy helps children to learn, experiment, reason, create, be active and informed citizens, and contribute socially, culturally, and economically.

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“FLN skills are not only critical for all future learning but are also strongly correlated with greater quality of life and well-being for the individual, and greater stability and prosperity for the nation. FLN skills bolster and enable progress on all other Sustainable Development Goals,” added Bhargava.

According to UNESCO, achieving universal primary and secondary education would help lift more than 420 million people out of poverty, reducing the number of poor in the world by more than half.

Bhargava noted that since 2000, school enrolment has increased and the number of out-of-school children and youth was nearly cut in half.

“Globally, 87 per cent of children now complete primary school. Dramatic progress has been made toward gender parity, especially in access to primary education.  Through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 4), the world has committed to achieving universal completion of secondary school for all youth – with meaningful learning – by 2030.

“However, despite these improvements in access and equity, significant gaps persist, and hundreds of millions of children and youth worldwide are reaching adulthood without even the most basic life skills,” he said.

Expanding and ensuring universal access to quality ECCE (early childhood care and education) programs, curricular focus on FLN, improving teacher capacity, focus on nutrition and health, parent and community participation and committed spending to ensure equitable access and learning are among the recommendations made by Bhargava for achieving universal FLN.

Stressing on the importance of ECCE, he said that students who start out behind tend to stay behind.

“In particular, students who do not have access to ECCE programs are far less likely to attain FLN. It is therefore recommended that all nations ensure universal access to early childhood care and education institutions having play-based curriculum and pedagogy for all children aged 3-6 years,” the mathematician said.

“The data shows that much more needs to be done to ensure the universalisation of access to quality ECCE programs, especially for children from low-income households.

“If these trends continue, these gaps in access to pre-primary education will be significant and have distressing implications for child development and educational outcomes. Initiatives must range from ensuring access to improving the overall quality of the ECCE program,” he said.

Bhargava also stressed that with regard to meeting FLN goals, multilingual children have advantages over unilingual children.

“Studies worldwide show that multilingual children develop greater cognitive capacities, learn faster, and are placed better later in life than unilingual children. Children pick up languages extremely quickly between the ages of 3 to 8 years, so exposure to multiple languages early on is considered beneficial,” he said.

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The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
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