Impact of COVID on education

It’s the largest disruption of global education systems in history. When the pandemic first hit around one and a half billion students around the world were sent home as schools closed their doors, some have since reopened but class isn’t in session for half of the world’s school children. The lucky ones were able to pursue their studies online but for many even in developed countries that’s not an option the world was already struggling to come to grips with educational inequality. Now the united nations warn, the COVID-19 crisis is making it worse disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable and threatening to wipe out decades of progress for this generation and possibly beyond at the height of the pandemic schools in some 190 countries closed their doors many have since reopened but the experience of lockdown heightened major inequalities in education and even richer countries like Germany have struggled with the challenges of going digital. Many of the challenges involved in digital learning remain the foundational problems are still there, a lot of parents don’t understand technology, a lot of families don’t have internet or digital technology at home but the schools are much better prepared so we are able to have clouds and messenger services. An email that is all in accordance with data protection laws which was not the case before the corona crisis has made schools realize how much still needs to be done in most classrooms teachers and students still use analog tools and learning materials to change that the German government has put aside 5 billion euros to digitalize the classroom money desperately needed.

Over the last seven decades the world experienced the most remarkable silent revolution in the history of humanity as a result of the expansion of access to school which went from including about one of two children in school 70 years ago to including just about everyone. Now this pandemic through three mechanisms is going to create a major setback, the first mechanism is that because schools have had to create alternative ways of delivering education in a limited time, with limited professional preparation to teachers those mechanisms have not reached all students. All students equally well in addition the kind of support that is available to students at home varies depending on the level of education of their parents and their socio-economic level and as a result for the students who have not been reached effectively and who do not have adequate support at home they are not learning and they are not engaging in school. What that means is that some of them are going to have a very hard time continuing their studies when the pandemic is over and some of them are going to drop out altogether. In some cases, the hardship caused by the pandemic in some families has caused those children to begin to work to help their families survive and finally the third mechanism is that this pandemic is creating enormous financial burdens in some states and as a result of that there’s going to be less funding available for education. So, those three mechanisms are the ones that are going to cause major setbacks in how many children are able to return to school. We’re going to see many of them drop out and we’re going to see that for many children even those who continue they’re going to be significant gaps in their knowledge that schools may or may not be able to help them recover so some huge challenges.

If you think about the last pandemic of 1918, education was not one of the top three was not even one of the top 10 concerns and the fact that it is it speaks very well about how we as a global community have internalized, how important the development of the talent and skills of the next generation are. The second thing that is surprising is the professionalism of many teachers who have demonstrated that to them education is not just a job, it’s a live mission and they have worked extremely hard to create alternative ways to continue to reach their students sometimes with the support of their local governments, state governments, sometimes in the absence of that support. The third thing is the remarkable creativity and innovation that has resulted from collaboration among teachers within schools, among schools’, collaborations among organizations of civil society and teachers. We think that some of those innovations have been facilitated by the teachers who are connected to networks of people outside their jurisdictions that extensive communication that puts a teacher in touch with others in places far and away.

Now the question arises how do you decide which parts of the population get vaccinated first? There’s a lot of worry about the national and international levels that when a vaccine does become available, it won’t be distributed to the people who need it most on an equitable basis but who does need it the most well lawmakers are already coming up with lists of who should be at the front of the line and with some variations but what’s already clear is that that children will be far down on the list and not only because COVID-19 is less deadly in general for them but also because it’ll take more time to produce and test vaccines that are specifically tailored to kids. Meanwhile, students who were to start their college education this year will have to keep applying to the colleges and universities online and start their online college education today.