The Covid 19 pandemic is one of the greatest epidemics of all time. It is a health crisis that has brought forth unprecedented change and events. The education sector has been one of the hardest hit areas of our lives. With the guidelines that have had to be put in place, specifically the global lockdowns, curfews and movement restrictions, there has been a significant amount of interruptions and disruptions of students’ learning.
Effects of Covid 19 on school life
As voxeu.org reports, all educational institutions were put on mandatory lockdown to hinder and control the spread of the virus and this has led to interruption of the schools calendars and curriculum, disruption of both internal and external or public assessments for academic qualifications. While short term, this disruption has caused a huge loss to the world at large and has been felt by families around the globe.
There have been attempts to keep the education going through online classes and homeschooling. However the two options have been met by a series of impediments and have not been as effective as the traditional school life.
The impact of these changes has been felt by both students and parents alike who are mostly not equipped to handle homeschooling effectively. Most parents have had a hard time adjusting to these new conditions hence hindering their productivity. The situation has not been kind to the children either as they have had to adapt to a new way of life which also comes as a massive shock on their learning and social development and life. Many are still adjusting to the new system of online learning but a growing concern is of those students that are disadvantaged.
According to hrw.org, school closures exacerbated existing inequalities particularly in African countries. Their findings showed that children who were previously at risk of missing out on a quality education were the most affected by the closures. Most of these children come from poor families who cannot afford a laptop or a good internet connection. How then are they supposed to learn and catch up with more advantaged children?
Going to school is also one major contributing tool to building skills in children. School time allows for children to raise social skills and social awareness. These are skills that are vital to a child’s development and inform their future interactions. This disruption poses a decline in the growth of these skills and is likely to impact their future if not mitigated.
It is however difficult to predict just how much their skills have been affected and it is important to focus on building these skills with the reopening of schools. The loss of time in teaching also impacts test score outcomes. There have been studies that prove dedicating more hours to teaching increased test scores as more students are in a better position to better prepare for assessments.
Families are central to a child’s education and play a major role in their learning by providing support. Parents supplement their child’s education b assisting them in their assignments, taking them on educational trips e.g. Museums, archeological sites etc. However most are incapable and lack the formal training to be the sole educator.
Home schooling is becoming more popular but is unlikely to catch on to the entire population. In developing countries home schooling is not likely to succeed especially for families whose parents did not receive a formal education leaving little to no support for their children’s education. There is also the fact that most parents are working and therefore may not have enough time to aid their children’s learning or even effectively supervise it for that matter.
Assessments are important in determining the student’s progress. According to brookings.edu postulates that loss of the information obtained from internal assessments delays the recognition of learning difficulties and high potential in learners both of which have unfavorable long term effects. However even exams for the main public qualifications have been affected. In the UK for instance the GCSEs and A levels were cancelled. In Kenya, these exams were postponed pending the reopening of schools. These assessments are used to determine qualifications for higher education and cancellation would require an alternative assessment method to be put in place.
Predicted grades have been fronted as an alternative but are likely to suffer from bias. For instance since boys are assumed to perform better in the STEM subjects, there will be an upward bias in predicting their grades compared to that of girls. In most colleges and universities, online assessment tools have gained popularity but are likely to have a bigger margin of error in assessment compared to traditional exams.
There is also the decline of academic integrity. As reported by pnas.org, contract and exam cheating as well as academic file sharing has become more rampant with remote learning making it easier for students to cheat. Without interactions with their teachers most students do not feel passionate about learning.
There have also been concerns over the students’ mental health with many reporting to have had feelings of anxiety, stress and depression. Many also battled with despondency, faced with the uncertainty of their future. This year’s graduates are likely to be more severely affected. Not only have they been affected by the disruptions of their learning but they are joining the labour market during a major global recession. They may have to accept lower paying jobs and those from programs with low predicted earnings may not fully recover the earning losses from graduating in these circumstances.
There is a ray of hope though as most countries are striving to recover from all the negative impacts of the epidemic. There have been recommendations put in place by UNESCO whose main aim is to aid our education institutions to bounce back and recover from the disruption.
We may have a long way to go but if we adhere to the Covid-19 protocols and guidelines then we shall definitely overcome and rebuild our economies one step at a time.