Education across the world remains heavily under-reported except in the case of extraordinary anomalies. We only hear about the highest earning package coming out of IIT but nothing about the billions of students across the world struggling to figure out their lives in these extraordinary times. The impact of COVID-19 on education has affected those in school and those leaving school looking for job opportunities now and in the future. It has created widespread economic despair, and those who hold promise for the future are not being treated as they should, with care and caution.
How will children continue to learn? How will the necessary information be dissipated in an effective format? And what does the grave impact of COVID-19 on education mean for their future?
Naturally, in this situation, seeing the deep-routed impact COVID-19 has caused, the few main stakeholders are; the education-seeking children, their teachers, their parents, and the schools and colleges that they go to. All over the world, at least 188 countries have been forced to shut down their schools and education centers. This not only means professional setbacks for those in college or a loss of revenue for institutions, it means a setback for a nation. While this may sound slightly dramatic, it may not be dramatic enough. The current pandemic has caused a halt in the regular learning processes of students, the same processes that prepare them for their future as adults.
This worldwide virus has caused children to be forced to stay at home, and as per the Hechinger Report, the drop-out percentages are rising as parents are put under additional economic strain.
The impact of COVID-19 on education has been felt so far and wide that students who relied on government setups for meals at school are having to go hungry, and even those who are more privileged are struggling to communicate normally through electronic systems.
This lockdown has, in essence, created even deeper class and economic disparities than were seen before. This can be seen in how public and private educational institutions handle this situation.
In many countries, it often feels that the impact of COVID-19 on education could have been controlled if the government would have been more proactive towards the cause.
In India, 4.6 percent of the nation’s GDP (gross domestic product) is spent on education; in China, that number is under 3%; and in Indonesia, another country trying to grow rapidly, the spending is below 4%. This is less than the amount many sub-Saharan counties spend, but that is not the point. The point is that in a country where a huge number of students depend on the government for basic education, what happens when none of this can be supported? What happens when government school enrollment numbers only go up through schemes like the mid-day meal that cannot be provided? Obviously, these children have no scope for digital learning.
The worldwide COVID-19 lockdown has brought the education of up to 90%+ of the world’s learners to a complete halt at one point or another. This means that even systems that were in place, such as access to food, which has usually encouraged students to attend schools, have been halted. In the context of developing nations such as Bangladesh, India, Kenya, and the Philippines, it is an increase in an already extremely high dropout rate.
This, therefore, leaves the question of the smaller percentage of children who have the privilege to go to private schools. Across the world, this is a small number of learners who have greater but not complete access to digital learning platforms. Private schools have transformed an almost non-existent sphere of e-learning into an everyday phenomenon. They have turned to cloud-based applications, learning over video/audio conferences, emailing, and other technologies to get information across.
However, considering the widespread impact of COVID-19, this solution is not flawless. Many families do not have the required number of devices to sustain parents working from home at the same hours as their children having to do online school. Additionally, children eight years and younger need constant parental support, and even older children need help figuring out all these new systems.
Not to be forgotten, there are students who cannot afford such technological implements and struggle with their usage due to a severe lack of exposure and training. The same also goes for teachers who have not been equipped for such circumstances. Everyone is pushing to make this somehow work even if the education standards remain sub-par.
The initial lack of readiness to handle the impact of COVID-19 on educational circumstances really defined the first month or so of nationwide lockdowns in all spheres, including education, but slowly many systems began to sort themselves out. Offices and work sites figured out ways to employ as many people as possible in shifts or to provide technology at home, but schools could not do the same. Education did not seem to stand at the forefront of government counter-crisis plans, which continued to take a toll on students.
Even once the gravity and the longevity of the situation had been established, the social divide continued to play a big role in access to education. Even though these problems seem to be socioeconomic status-related, problems seem to be rampant across the board. Educational burdens continue to be felt across the world regardless of the socio-economic status of the student. No method has been created that has been able to re-create the teacher-student dynamic that is important in the process of learning.
Unfortunately, this great shift to online and other distance-learning solutions is not enough to pad the impact of COVID-19 on education in developing nations. For example, one-fifth of all government teaching positions are empty in India. Most government schools in India have only one teacher in them at a time due to unbelievable rates of absence, and the teacher-to-student ratio is absolutely unacceptable. Further, this is seen as common in other developing nations as well.
This makes it hard to believe in the teaching abilities of individuals who cannot provide high-quality education in normal circumstances. Will they be able to perform even decently well in these out-of-the-ordinary situations? Furthermore, even if technological resources were to be provided, there would be training provided for their usage. This raises The question of whether putting in this much effort is even possible.
There are a significant number of problems even wealthier parents in urban spaces are feeling, and these are flowing over into other spheres of work as well, from setting up and monitoring e-learning spaces to dealing with tantrums and the stress around a new system in the troubled times of COVID-19. In cases with younger children and two working parents, that also means a need to juggle between work and monitoring. Furthermore, with families at home, housework has increased, and therefore, what may have seemed like a relaxing time at home has changed into a space for stress and lowered productivity levels for both parents and children.
Schools have also been feeling the brunt of parents in terms of the sub-par education resulting from new systems. Schools with monthly fee structures have also seen major dips in available cash, and daycares are running dry. It is a cycle that is collapsing upon itself, especially as many educational systems run as not-for-profit institutions. Across world media, it has been observed that most governments have hardly spoken of the collapse of education systems in the context of COVID-19. What’s worse is that this means that they are also not offering solutions from the front. Another major concern that needs to be addressed the world over is the need for fees to remain standard as the quality of education grows as incomes have been affected across the board.
It is now understood the academic and economic distress the shutdown of schools worldwide has caused, but there must be a way to mitigate it. From standardizing assessments to the more widespread availability of affordable resources, education must see a makeover to keep up with the COVID-19 times. Systems must be put in place to replace all the lost learning of this period and foolproof measures to safeguard education from our uncertain future. Governments must be encouraged to take measures to treat these issues as a priority.
Everyone knows the importance of education; that goes without question. However, considering the impact COVID-19 has had on education, we need to come to terms with and acknowledge that education today has become quite difficult to access, even with the advancements in technology. On the note of technology, we must aim to satisfy the need for education by getting creative in finding solutions for this important problem we face.
We hope this article helps you acknowledge that privilege does make a difference and that the ability to express thought creatively can and must be employed to secure the future of millions of young children. Make sure to contact us to share any technologically based ideas you can think of to help remedy this unfortunate situation.
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