Aug 25, 2021
COVID-19 created an unprecedented hiatus on kids’ education. At the moment when the whole world seemed to be stepping into the next generation of learning through the state of technology, the deadly virus turned the world upside down before we even realized it. Thankfully, though children were not the primary targets of the deadly virus (at least for now), the impact it left on their education and learning will last years to come.
To address this issue, in many countries including India, numerous schools swiftly moved to online learning. Teachers who never had the experience of using the digital medium for teaching quickly appreciably adapted to the same.
However, the changes could not help much. The Center for Global Development concluded that ed-tech, which was supposed to be a great equalizer, did not turn up to be so. While there are many reasons for this, the main culprit seems to be the digital divide. Countless families across the globe do not have access to the internet. The prices of digital devices are also beyond the reach of the poorer sections of society.
Countries are trying to do their best to ensure that the impact of COVID-19 on kids’ education is minimal. China, for instance, provided a subsidy on learning tablets, and digital devices for its poorer sections as a part of this attempt. Despite such attempts, the impact of COVID on kids’ education is apparent.
As a result of this impact of COVID-19 on kids’ education, the world will have to witness the following phenomenon at least for some years to come:
COVID-19 has been the culprit for the loss of livelihood for millions across the globe. Besides leaving many children as orphans, the pandemic also turned children emotionally vulnerable due to the loss of breadwinners in the family. This consequently forces the children into the child labor market. Horrifyingly, the impact is more felt on vulnerable groups like migrants, displaced families, and minorities.
The World Bank acknowledges that the impact of COVID on kids’ education will be a long-lasting one. Its latest report on this issue highlights that the learning gap the poor nations have been facing from even before the pandemic era just widened irreparably due to the pandemic.
As per its statistics, 53 children out of 100 were deprived of education due to various reasons before the pandemic. The children in this category could not read or identify words and alphabets like the children of their age are expected to. Terming this as the Learning Poverty, World Bank points out that the pandemic crisis added to this figure. Statistics mention that post-pandemic Learning Poverty is 63 for a group of 100 children.
One of the plethora of never-heard aspects that the pandemic induced in our lives is social distancing. And the impact of social distancing on vocational training institutes is the hardest. According to the survey done by International Labor Organization, 90 percent of vocational training institutes in the survey went into closure.
Girl education was always at risk in many countries despite the measures to improve it. Educationists and economists acknowledge that another major impact of covid on kids’ education would be an abysmally low rate of girl education henceforth. Besides, this would also trigger the child marriage rate, early pregnancies, and domestic violence steeply.
Though the schools continued teaching through digital mediums, it is a clear fact that the fruits did not reach the students as they were intended to. This creates a learning gap in the children where they may fail to understand the concepts of higher grades.
While we can fill this gap through certain measures at the lower classes level, the impact on high school children and college students is worrying. With the postponement of entrance exams and the change in the grading system of the final year graduates, the future of many students is bleak.
Now that the vaccination is slowly entering the markets, hopefully, if things turn out better by this year-end, the education system might be back to its normalcy. That said, it comes with a plethora of challenges, right from making up for lost classes to focusing on students’ emotional health.
Schools might have to plan for extra classes or remedial classes to fill the learning gaps. Such extra classes should be holistic in approach, also being non burdening on the young minds. Devising such remedial classes is a challenge for educationists, but it may not be an impossible feat.
By revamping the curriculum and the academic schedule so that there is a right proportion of educational technology, elevated participation of parents, and a change in the teaching style and assessment, we can fill the learning gap effectively.
Schools might have to consider a change in their daily teaching hours, along with sizing down the holiday seasons at least for 1-2 years to come. The authorities and syllabi makers may also think of revamping the syllabus by including the “need-to-knows” and eliminating the “nice-to-knows”.
Teachers are the unsung heroes in the fight against the impact of COVID on kids’ education. All kudos to them; they quickly learned and adjusted to the technology their schools are leveraging for teaching digitally.
After the schools get back to normalcy, schools should empower teachers with the latest of learning technology to teach the subjects effectively in a shorter time. Leveraging the EdTech in the right way will help both teachers and students, which is the real need of the hour to minimize the impact of the pandemic on kids’ education.
Children were hit hard due to the pandemic from many aspects. While some spent confined to homes, many lost their parents, well-wishers, and friends, which would leave an ingrained impression on their emotional well-being. The educational system should add sports, yoga, classical arts, and martial arts as a part of the curriculum because they can work wonders on a child’s mental health.
Another not-to-miss proposal to minimize the impact of COVID on kids’ education would be the necessity to change the examination and grading system at least for the coming 1-2 years. By making tests more objective and devising them to test the child’s conceptual and practical knowledge, we should bring in measures to alleviate the exam fear and stress on children.
The future of every country is the children. It is on the governments and the educationists to bring the much-needed change in the approach learning happens in the post-pandemic era.
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