Catch-up work in schools till March 2022 | Sunday Observer

Catch-up work in schools till March 2022

21 November, 2021

The Education Ministry has devised a program to mitigate the impact in loss of schooling on children due to the post pandemic closure of schools for over 18 months. The State schools will resume normal operations with the re-opening of grades from 6 to 9 today.

A 100-day catch-up program to impart the essential components of the syllabi to students before they move on to the next grade in 2022 has been put in place by the Education Ministry.

“We have come up with a formula to cover the learning losses. Hundred days have been set aside to complete the catch-up work. During this time, we will focus on imparting essential components of lessons, that are prerequisites to proceed to the next grade,” Education Ministry Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera told the Sunday Observer last week.

According to him in 2020 children lost about 50 percent of teaching days in the Western Province and 40 percent in other provinces, due to post pandemic school closures. And in 2021 this was about 90 percent in the Western Province while 78 percent in other provinces, until the schools re-opened on a staggered basis from October 21 this year.

Catch-up program

Under the special catch-up program, the schools which could not cover anything during the pandemic closures, which is the worst case scenario, have the freedom to cover up important areas of the syllabi till March next year. But the schools which have effectively conducted remote schooling via online or other platforms get to start the new grade early.”Some schools therefore, might start the new school year earlier than others,” the Secretary said.

The National Institute of Education with the subject directors in the Ministry and the provincial directors and teachers has teamed up to prepare the guidelines for the cover up lessons.

During the first wave of the pandemic, schools initiated their own arrangements to conduct online classes with the commitment of the teachers. There were discrepancies due to adaptation issues and a digital gap with some teachers having little or no training on the use of digital platforms. But some schools conducted such programs effectively, into the second year, with the help of parents and teachers until a trade union action by academic staff in July this year, crippled the whole state primary and secondary education sector.

The Education Ministry promoted the online education, and did what is possible to facilitate it since the schools were closed for several months, the Education Secretary said.

The strike came to an end with the Government and the trade unions reaching a settlement in mid-October to rectify teachers and principal’s salary anomalies partially through the 2022 Budget which is currently being presented in Parliament. And on October 1 the countrywide travel restrictions were also lifted. The Education Ministry got the green light from the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 to reopen schools on October 21.

“We re-opened schools according to health guidelines issued by the Technical Committee of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19. It is led by the Health Services DG, and in my capacity as the Education Ministry Secretary, I attend the meetings,” he said adding that UNICEF welcomed the decision.The schools in Sri Lanka were continuously closed since April 23 of this year due to the second wave of Covid-19.

Figures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) show, in the first 12 months of the pandemic, 1.5 billion students in 188 countries and economies were not able to attend school for varying lengths of time. Though certain schools provided some form of remote learning, these closures had resulted in learning losses worldwide.


As a solution to catch up, some countries like England have discussed extending the school days. Studies in the US and Canada have supported the idea that it could help students in the short and long run, according to the – a leading publisher of research based news and analysis.

While there may be benefits to pupils in extending the school days, the costs to teachers’ mental health and wellbeing cannot be ruled out and the said students would not benefit from being taught by a stressed out teacher.

The Education Ministry has not proposed longer school hours but individual schools have the freedom to devise own arrangements to come out of the crisis.

To transform schools as centres of learning under new normal the Education Ministry has spent Rs.682 million. The funds were spent on upgrading sick rooms, disinfection, improving sanitation facilities and to set up facilities to follow Covid-19 health guidelines.

Steps were taken to reopen schools following a UNICEF and UNESCO report that education of 400 million children in South Asia, 260 million in East Asia and 140 million in South East Asia has been disrupted due to Covid-19. Of this 27 million students were waiting for more than a year to return to their classrooms.

In this backdrop, the WHO advised that the vaccination of children was not compulsory to reopen schools.

The Education Secretary said although the WHO guidelines stated that there was no co-relation between vaccination of children and re-opening of schools, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa advised to inoculate teachers, principals and non academic staff including the canteen crew before the re-opening. Over 3,00,000 academic and non academic staff members in all nine provinces were given both shots by September 12.

As soon as the Covid -19 technical committee recommendation to reopen schools were issued, the Ministry planned to reopen schools in several phases.

On October 21, the primary sections of about 3000 schools with less than 200 student population, was reopened. On October 25, primary sections of all the schools, counting over 9100 schools, were reopened.

By mid October the Government began vaccinating all G.C.E. Advanced Level students against Covid-19 with the costly and highly effective Pfizer vaccine with a 90 percent efficacy rate against hospitalisation. Then on November 8, the Education Ministry took steps to resume clsses in Grades 10, 11, 12 and 13.

“We are now ready to restart, the rest of the classes from Grades 6 to 9 on November 22. Thereafter all 10,100 State schools island wide will be fully functioning,” Prof. Perera said.

He said so far the Education Ministry has recorded satisfactory attendance in all the Grades from 1 to 12 except for the G.C.E. A/L classes. “It is usual even in other years to have low attendance in Grade 13. Once the syllabus is covered, children opt to revise at home.,” he added.


Faced with the challenge to prepare children for the new school year, the Education Ministry has planned to limit Christmas holidays, which is one whole month under usual circumstances to just a 4-5 days break for Christmas. This will no doubt be a heartache for the children. But the challenge posed by the pandemic is not over yet with some countries still reporting relapses and lockdowns.

Hence, their journey towards overcoming the huge learning losses during the pandemic will be a bigger challenge than a mere heartache for all – children, teachers, administrators as well as the parents.