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Learning losses due to COVID-19 will be unequal, and closely related to students’ socio-economic background. In India, 92% of primary-school students are estimated to have lost one language ability, and 82% one mathematical ability during the first wave of the pandemic. Globally, before the pandemic, 53% of students from low- and middle-income countries were unable to read and understand a simple text. This learning poverty is projected to worsen to 63% now. Research from Ghana showed that two-thirds of learning gains in foundational numeracy in a year were lost in 3-4 months of school closures; similar effects are likely across the Global South. Though a lack of access to digital infrastructure is part of what makes remote learning difficult, the unavailability of quality remote-learning material is equally problematic. Current high-quality learning material often requires high internet bandwidth and expensive devices, unavailable to many. Furthermore, teachers’ efforts are hindered by decreased interaction with students; they are unable to gauge student progress or address their misconceptions. Overall, this will cause students to lag further behind and create greater disparities in within-grade learning-levels, and increase heterogeneity in classrooms, making effective teaching more difficult.
Mindspark is a Personalized and Adaptive Learning (PAL) software that can help students learn their vernacular language, Mathematics and English as a second language. It draws on a vast database of questions to finely benchmark the initial learning level and rate of progress of every student and customize the material delivered accordingly, thus teaching-at-the-right-level at scale technologically. Based on this, it designs lessons tailored to each student’s needs and assigns remedial activity to reinforce basic concepts when necessary. It uses animated content to engage students, and gamifies learning by giving points for successful answers. The software also asks questions to specifically test whether students understand concepts and knowledge application in real-life scenarios, instead of mechanistic learning. Mindspark generates usage reports that give detailed and actionable insights into both individual and group learning levels. Teachers and school administrators can use these to plan lessons and provide remediation where necessary. Prior to the pandemic, students would use Mindspark in labs set up in their schools. During the pandemic, Mindspark was made available remotely. Students can now access it via smartphones and similar devices at home, through an interface optimized for mobile usage.