Without a doubt, the coronavirus pandemic has reshaped the world as we know it. It has changed even our simplest habits, the way we interact, and our everyday routines. The health crisis has undeniably altered social, cultural, and economic norms. And among the world’s biggest concerns is the effects of coronavirus on education.
The Impact of School Closures
Around the world, schools were among the first public institutions to close down to contain the spread of the virus. UNESCO data shows that a total of 180 countries have opted to shut down schools as of March 2020. In the United States, all 50 states and U.S. territories have chosen to close school doors. A decision made even without a nationwide order for a shutdown.
As a result, 87 percent of the world’s student population — about 1.5 billion youth and, consequently, their parents — are left wondering about the future.
The effects of coronavirus on education aren’t only on the disruption of learning. According to a report by UNESCO, school closures have only highlighted the existing problems in the education system. And it becomes even more evident as schools push for distance or home learning. The impact is notably more severe for marginalized families.
Distance learning may be the best way to ensure learning continuity, but it presents its own set of challenges. These include:
- Loss of learning, growth, and development opportunities
- Teachers and students struggling to transition to distance learning
- Parents unable to guide their children in their homeschooling because of work or limited resources
- A rise in dropout rates
- Concentration difficulties particularly for younger children and children with special needs
- Challenges for teachers and school authorities in implementing a new method of learning
- Challenges in measuring learning, particularly in assessments and exams
- Delays in admissions and standardized testing
- Poor nutrition for children and families who rely on school meals
How the Coronavirus Pandemic Can Change Education
In just a short time, Covid-19 has altered the way we teach our students. While some of these changes may be temporary, they also give us a peek of what might be here to stay.
One of the things worth noting is how quickly the majority of schools have been able to put in place a new mode of learning. Despite all its harms, the coronavirus has also become a kind of motivation for academic institutions to push for innovation.
Students in Hong Kong use interactive apps to recreate classroom lessons and interactions. Meanwhile, Chinese students without proper Internet connectivity can still access learning materials through live television broadcasts. And in Peru, UNESCO has opted to conduct its science program aimed at young girls online. This came after the Peruvian government decided to close schools for the rest of 2020.
As today’s students are more adept at using technology, these new modes can easily complement traditional classes. But, there is a downside. Integrating online learning methods can also widen the digital divide.
Because online education relies heavily on the quality of digital access, this puts some learners at a disadvantage. The challenge, therefore, falls on governments and Internet service providers. For digital learning to take off, the quality of Internet access must increase while lowering costs.
Measures to Counter the Effects of Coronavirus on Education
Aside from added funding for the education sector, authorities have laid out new policies for the coming school year. While the current focus remains on online learning, preparations are being made for when students return in the fall. These include new regulations and learning options.
In the last few weeks, more and more countries have started easing lockdown measures. And with that, the gradual reopening of schools, particularly in Europe and Asia.
The Netherlands, for example, has reopened schools last May. High school students are required to observe social distancing but not nursery and elementary students. Younger students are also not obliged to wear face masks, but they must always practice hand-washing. They may also participate in outdoor play and activities as long as they are with the same group of people.
The less stringent measures on grade school students are perhaps because studies have shown that young children are less susceptible to the virus.
In Hong Kong, which resumed classes at the end of May, schools implement full health and safety measures. From wearing of masks and sanitizing hands to checking body temperatures upon arrival. The length of classes has also been shortened to half a day.
Locally, New York City schools chancellor Richard Carranza offered a glimpse of what the next school year could look like for students. These include observing the following health and safety measures:
- Wearing of masks and personal protective gear
- Trauma-informed approaches to teaching
- Blended learning options, which combines in-person and remote learning
- Phased-in start dates and split schedules
- Limited movement within school buildings and premises
- Providing support and focusing on the emotional and mental health of young learners
What Parents Can Do to Help Their Children
Parents play a huge part in helping children make sense of the world’s current situation. This also means taking a bigger role in countering the effects of coronavirus on education. Especially now that learning is turning digital and home study is becoming the new normal.
As students transition from in-person classes to online lessons and home learning, parents must ensure:
- They are available and are equipped to be their children’s primary educator
- Their children have access to the Internet and other online resources
- Their children have a suitable learning space
- Mental and emotional support for their children
- Their children stay motivated and focused
- Their children do not suffer summer and Covid-19 learning loss
The last item is particularly important in preventing learning decline. Studies have shown that children can lose at least a month’s worth of academic gains during extended breaks from school. In some cases, the extent of loss can skyrocket to a full year.
The best way to prevent this is to supplement the focused learning provided by schools. And while the current health crisis may be limiting your options, supplemental learning can still be possible with the help of private tutors.
Themba Tutors and Brooklyn Letters are New York-based private tutoring companies that are fully committed to providing fun, individualized, and dynamic tutoring, coaching, and therapy sessions for children and teens.
Composed of traveling learning specialists, academic tutors, and executive function coaches that work one-on-one with students of all ages, they provide multidisciplinary and personalized services.
Brooklyn Letters offers in-home and online literacy (Orton-Gillingham Approach) and math tutoring services as well as speech, language, and feeding therapies in the New York City metro area seven days a week.
Themba Tutors provides in-home services in New York City, Nassau and Suffolk Counties, Long Island, Westchester County, Fairfield County, Connecticut, and sections of New Jersey.
For more information, contact:
(917) 382-8641 / (201) 831-9848