Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic spread worldwide, many countries have closed their schools starting with China in January. As of 29th July 2020, 106 countries have had nationwide closures of all schools and institutions while a few countries such as USA, South Africa and China have localised school closure.
This has had great impact not only on the children but even the parents, teachers and the economy of the countries. Many exams have also been cancelled such as the Cambridge International Examinations and the Advanced Placement Exams.
As the world economy is going down and things getting more expensive, it’s becoming more difficult for the parents to feed their family. This has pushed teachers and school managements to use innovative ways to continue teaching, mainly through the internet. In response to the current situation, UNESCO has recommended the use of distance learning using online platforms such as Zoom, WhatsApp and LiveBoard. Other mediums such as television and radio programmes are also being used to keep the students engaged.
The downside of using online platforms is the lack of physical presence. Ever since the education system started, children go to classrooms where a teacher comes and teaches the subject. If a student has any question, he/she can ask and the teacher tries to answer to the student’s satisfaction. This creates a teacher-student bond. Apart from that, there are activities such as art and sports where the physical presence of a teacher is paramount.
Penny Vlies, an award winning secondary school teacher in Melbourne told of her experience during a webinar with other teachers regarding the challenges she faces about online learning.
“I missed hearing them breathe,” she wrote. Others also had similar comments such as “sensing their engagements” and “noticing when things don’t make sense.”
However, not everyone can afford these facilities. There are still many families who are struggling with home schooling. There are also many classes of people such as those who are poor, refugees and children with disabilities who can’t continue their learning.
For example, in Ivory Coast only one in three children finishes school. The pandemic has only made it worse.
Despite the governments’ efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic by closure of many places, cases continue to rise. Closure of schools also cause many socio-economic problems. According to UNICEF, millions of children can be victims of child labor in developing countries.
Many colleges and universities around the world are also planning to go virtual in the fall. There are varying results of cases like some students may be taking fewer classes while others may be taking more classes. Even with the efforts of distance learning, schools in the same area are seen to vary their timing and curriculum. This means that students studying in different schools, even in the same area may not necessarily study the same subjects or follow the required timeline. This also can affect children as they can only rely on following the online tutorials and tests from the teachers of their own schools.
This has also resulted in the indecision of when to reopen the schools. There are also important exams that have to be prioritised before the schools are properly reopened. But even then, the teachers and school management have to be guided on how to take care of the children by wearing face masks and providing clean water.
UNESCO has provided ten recommendations for online learning;
1. Examine the readiness and choose the most relevant tools.
2. Ensure inclusion of the distance learning programmes.
3. Protect data privacy and data security.
4. Prioritize solutions to address psychosocial challenges before teaching.
5. Plan the study schedule of the distance learning programmes.
6. Provide support to teachers and parents on the use of digital tools.
7. Blend appropriate approaches and limit the number of applications and platforms.
8. Develop distance learning rules and monitor students’ learning process.
9. Define the duration of distance learning units based on students’ self-regulation skills.
10. Create communities and enhance connection.
In addition, governments’ around the world should support those who lack these facilities especially in the developing countries for the education system needs it more than ever.