About the organisation

Central Square Foundation (CSF) is a non-profit organisation working towards ensuring quality school education for all children in India. Since 2012, CSF has partnered with the government, the private sector, non-profit organisations, and other ecosystem stakeholders to improve the learning outcomes of children, especially from low-income communities. CSF is driven by its mission to enable the school education system to adopt solutions that are scalable, sustainable and effective so that all children get equal access to opportunities needed for leading a better life.

To learn more, please visit http://www.centralsquarefoundation.org/

Disclaimer: We have made every effort to ensure that the information provided in this report is correct and complete as of 5th July, 2021. No part of this study should be considered an official position of the Government of India, respective state governments or their allied agencies and departments.

The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted school education in India bypushing as many as  250 million children out of classrooms. Evidence from past crises suggest that even short disruptions can lead to significant loss in learning. We imminently need to focus on effective remediation not only to reverse the learning losses due to the pandemic, but also to ensure that these losses don’t affect children’s chance at improving their life outcomes,and subsequently the nation's economy.

Through this year’s School Education in India report, we document the scale and scope of the disruption in school education due to the pandemic; provide a framework for thinking about its short-term and long-term effects; analysethe ecosystem’s education response to the crises; and discuss the way forward. Covid-induced school closures led to widespread adoption of at-home learning programmes whichincluded EdTech solutions and doorstep delivery of workbooks among other things. Based on available data and evidence, the report draws upon challenges to at-home learning programmes and how they can be overcome. Going forward, it will be crucial to continue innovating and building on these programmes as India potentially looks at a system where schools open and close frequently to control the spread of the pandemic based on the local situation.

The report considers the risks and benefits of re-opening schools and discusses approaches for safe re-opening, including insights from other countries that re-opened during the pandemic. In addition, considerations for state governments as they plan tore-open schools are discussed. Priority should be given to opening schools for early grades given how critical foundational skills are for future learning. The recent launch of NIPUN Bharat comes at a very opportune time, and can very well be the beacon that guides the school education system on how to help children learn more meaningfully

Ashish Dhawan
Founder Chairman
Central Square Foundation

Introduction: Unprecedented Disruption of School Education[page 7]

I. Ecosystem Response to Covid-19[page 20]

II. Learning at Home[page 53]

III. Re-opening of Schools[page 69]

Annexure[page 99]

List of abbreviations

AAC: Alternative Academic Calendar
All India Radio
Artificial Intelligence
Annual Status of Education Report
Academic Year

Broadcast Audience Research Council
Budget Estimate
Bihar Education Project Council
Below Poverty Line
Block Resource Coordinator

Central Board of Secondary Education
Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy
Cluster Resource Coordinator
Child Rights and You

Delhi NCR Coronavirus Telephone Survey
District Institute of Education and Training
Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing

Ernst & Young LLP

FLN: Foundational Literacy and Numeracy
Foundational Learning Over Whatsapp

Gross Domestic Product
Global System for Mobile Communications Association

Internet & Mobile Association of India
India's Citizen Environment & Consumer Economy
Information and Communications Technology
Interactive Voice Response System

Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya

Kerala Infrastructure and Technology for Education
Kendriya Vidyalaya

Low and Middle Income Countries
Learning Outcomes

List of abbreviations

MDM: Mid-day Meals
Ministry of Human Resource Development
Ministry of Education
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

National Capital Region
National Council of Applied Economic Research
National Council of Educational Research and Training
National Education Policy
Non Governmental Organization
National Family Health Survey
National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy
National Initiative for School Heads' and Teachers' Holistic Advancement
National Sample Survey Office
New South Wales
Navodaya Vidyalaya

Online Capacity Building Programme
Programme for International Student Assessment
PISA for Development
Percentage Points

SC: Scheduled Caste
State Education and Executive Development Programme
Statement of Purpose
Supplementary Nutrition Programme
Samagra Siksha Abhiyaan
Scheduled Tribe

Tamil Nadu Teachers Platform
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India

Unified District Information System for Education
United Nations Children's Fund
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Union Territory

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

Covid-19 Vastly Affected School Education and Households in India

1.5 million schools, closed down to contain the pandemic, have remained largely closed sinceMarch 2020

250 million students affected by loss of learning and nutrition from school closures

84% of Indian households reported  income loss during the lockdown in 2020 (According to CMIE)

92% and 82% of students in grades2-6 lost at least one ability in language and mathematics, respectively, over previous year (Azim Premji University, 2021)

School closures impacted socio-emotional well-being of students; 33% of 5-13 year-olds and 50% of 14-18 year-olds reported poor or very poor mental health (UNICEF, 2021)

10 million girls in India likelyto be pushed out of school by the pandemic (CRY, 2020)

Long-term and Short-term Costs of the Pandemic
School closures and economic shock likely to be crippling for India

Direct Education Costs
School closures are leading to immense learning loss

What children shouldhave learnt during the academic year


What children have forgotten from what they already knew

Learning loss due to school closures

Azim Premji Foundation conducted a study in January 2021 with 16,067 children from grades 2-6 in 44 districts across India to gauge the extent of learning loss, which found that:

  • Over 82% had forgotten foundational abilities in mathematics
  • Over 92% had forgotten foundational abilities in languages

Learning loss by grade level

Health and Safety Impact
School closures affect child health in the short and long-term

Immediate impact

  • Reduction in coverage of essential health services (immunization, deworming)
  • Disruption of school meal programmes – Supplementary Nutrition Programme (SNP) and Mid Day Meals (MDM) – could increase the prevalence of malnutrition
  • Reduced socialization and socio-emotional learning could affect mental health of children

State-level multimodal approaches to school feeding in India during Covid-19

(Innocenti Working Paper, UNICEF, 2021)

Home delivery of mid-day meals/ rations

Kerala, Karnataka, Haryana, Assam, Uttar Pradesh

Take-home rations

Chhattisgarh, Jammu & Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha

Cash transfers

Bihar, Uttarakhand

Long-term impact

  • Limited access to nutrition can lead to malnutrition, impairing a child’s cognitive development, especially in early years
  • Poor health can affect an individual’s long-term productivity and income

State-level multimodal approaches to school feeding in India during Covid-19

(Innocenti Working Paper, UNICEF, 2021)

Home delivery of mid-day meals/ rations

Kerala, Karnataka, Haryana, Assam, Uttar Pradesh

Take-home rations

Chhattisgarh, Jammu & Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha

Cash transfers

Bihar, Uttarakhand

Demand for Education
Pandemic induced economic shock impacted livelihoods and households

77 %

Rapid phone-based surveys inDelhi suggest that the pandemic led to loss of livelihoods and wages. Casual labourers were especially affected. Daily earnings of those gainfully employed declined by 77% [1]

Loss of livelihoods by region and economic activity  (%)

Impact of lockdowns on households(%)

Demand for Education
Millions of migrant workers left cities due to the lockdown, affecting the education of accompanying children

Covid-19 shock

  • The lockdown from March 2020 fuelled an unprecedented reverse migration of 11.4 million workers from India’s densely populated cities to their home states
    (Paliath,S., 2021)
  • In Delhi alone, 166,000 students – about8.5% of total school enrollments – fell off the map and schools cannot tracethem

Research shows that children who migrate with their parents get less education for each year of age than the group that does not migrate  (Coffey, D., 2013)

Regular times

  • Economic Survey (2016-17) estimates India to have
    ~9 million migrants
  • Around 20-40% of school going age children may be accompanying migrant workers, or migrating for seasonal
    work (Coffey et al., 2014)

Demand for Education
Income shock from the pandemic affected HHs’ demand for education

Demand for Education
Data from Haryana suggests significant dropouts and student migration from private to government schools

Enrollment in Private and Government Schools in Haryana (in lakhs) 

Number of students who migrated from private to government schools in AY 2021-22 by grade

Supply of Education
Union Budget allocations for children’s welfare reduced by more than 10% for 2021-22

Trends in allocation for children in Union Budgets  

Allocations for Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan

Allocations for National Scheme for Incentive to Girls for secondary education

Long-term Costs
Recent research suggests Covid-19learning shock can have significant long-term impact on India’s human capital

Long run impact of Covid-19learning shock

Kaffenberger(2020) modelled the long-term impact of Covid-19on learning, finding that:

  • Learning losses from school closures could continue to accumulate even after children return to school
  • A3-month school closure could reduce long-term learning by at least a full year’s worth of learning
  • Remediation when children return to school reduces the long-term learning loss by half, but still leaves children more than half-a-year behind where they would have been
  • Remediation combined with long-term reorientation of instruction to align with children’s learning levels fully mitigates the long-term learning loss

Modelling estimates of long-term learning loss from Covid-19 shock and mitigation strategies

  • The model introduces a learning shock for group of grade 3 students and models their learning trajectories and outcomes through grade 10
  • The model replicates average grade 10 learning in mathematics in seven low- and middle income countries who participated in the PISA forDevelopment (PISA-D) assessment

Long-term Costs
Low human capital development can lead to economic, social and distributional issues

Economic issues
Social and distributional issues

Learning loss has primarily two long-term economic costs:

  • At an individual level, children whose education are interrupted face a long-term income loss over their lifetime (Hanushek& Woessmann, 2020)
  • At an aggregate level, a less skilled workforce is less productive leading to low economic growth

Inter-generational cycle of low human capital and productivity

Career earning losses are likely to be higher for:

  • Children from disadvantaged households
  • Low-achieving students
  • Students from vulnerable and/or marginalized groups

Inequities in learning and income inequality worsen

Learning poverty worsens, especially for children without access to at-home learning resources

Long-run loss in GDP due to Covid-19induced learning losses

Learning loss
(school-year equivalents)

In % of discounted future GDP

In % of current GDP

GDP decrease in year 2100



I. Ecosystem Response to Covid-19

Discusses the education response of the central and state governments, and non-government organizations to the pandemic

II. Learning at Home

Explores how the interplay between access and other household characteristics determines the effectiveness of at-home learning

III. Re-opening of Schools

Assesses the considerations and approaches in re-opening schools after prolonged school closures