Covid-19 or coronavirus is an infectious disease identified in 2019 in China. There is no specific treatment yet, and around 5% of infected remain in critical conditions. The rest have mild conditions and don’t require specific treatment. However, almost a third of the world’s population is locked in their homes, not being able to study and work. Today we want to analyze and discuss the impact of Covid-19 on education and academic performance.
Usually, students are happy to have a break from college and to relax without a need to do all those essays and research works. But not now. Schools, colleges, and universities across the world have been closed for weeks or even months, and students have to adjust to the new rules and schedules.
Millions of students worldwide have been impacted by the Covid-19 spread and are locked at home without a chance to go to college, do sports, and hobbies. So far, the pandemic has influenced students in over 100 countries, and 43 US states have made a series of restrictions to stop the spread of the deadly virus.
In 2013, the British Health Protection Agency noticed that shutting schools and colleges helped to slow down the flu outbreaks, and it’s not surprising: students share stationery, kiss and hug when greeting, use the same facilities inside buildings. However, the data on whether college closures will help to stop Covid-19 spread is still absent.
Teenagers may not be the main way of infection transmission, but the social and economic costs are huge. New York mayor Bill de Blasio said that there were many reasons not to close the city’s educational establishments. However, for governments, it is choosing between two bad variants.
Closing all schools and colleges may potentially lead to an economic disaster. Many countries are better prepared to face the financial crisis compared to the US. For example, China’s national closures come along with work-from-home policies and compensations for companies, which continue funding their workers. However, in Japan, not everyone is able to take paid sick leave or work from home. Italy faces the same problem: one-fifth of the working population (this includes students) is self-employed and doesn’t qualify for sick leaves. Students simply won’t be able to pay the tuition fee if they stay without work during the quarantine.
Another important issue is that children and students get a free or low-price lunch, and this meal often becomes the most nutritious part of the whole day. In New York City, over 20,000 teenagers stay in municipal shelters. How will they cope with the situation during the quarantine without a place to stay and food to eat?
Officials should always consider these issues when declaring states of emergency and introducing quarantine. But that’s not all.
According to the 2009 British study, if all schools are closed for one month, up to 19% of health-care workers will have to stay at home to take care of their children. Thus, Britain decided to keep schools open for those whose parents are key workers and for vulnerable students.
However, for most parents, the main concern is their children’s education—especially those who are qualified for a degree or have an important exam ahead.
Almost 250,000 British students were going to have a-levels in May. An exam to determine what university they qualify for. However, in March, it became obvious that the exam is canceled. Boris Johnson said that schoolers will still get all the necessary qualifications for the future career. And while this may not be a disaster for wealthy students, what should schoolers with lack of knowledge and cash do? They are the most vulnerable category and should be reckoned with.
Let’s return to the United States. Here the stakes are not so high and partially because of students’ transcripts. It is based on the achievements and grades throughout the year and makes the biggest part of the college application. Another benefit is that US students can take SATs, college admission exams, all year round.
Unfortunately, most students take the exam in spring, mainly in March and May. Thus, those who wanted to start a university in 2021 will have to wait for new dates when the exam will take place. Fortunately, everyone will be able to take the exam at home without a need to go anywhere.
Another problem that affects students across the United States is that they won’t be able to visit campuses to make up their minds on which college or university to enter. The decision should be made before May 1st, and it’s unlikely that the lockdown will be canceled by then. Some students and parents requiring to push the date to June 1st, but colleges remain silent. Harvard, however, is not going to change the applicable terms.
But not everyone is so stressed about the Covid-19 pandemic. Some education experts and enthusiasts, who don’t approve national exams, find it a right time to protest. Some educational establishments have made SATs optional. Miami University doesn’t exclude such a possibility.
The pandemic may speed up the process, experts say. However, the results of such a decision may be seen in a matter of months, which supports those who believe that high-stakes exams are an unfair way to choose who gets into a university. But it’s obvious that there are still no alternative ways for a transparent and objective measure of skills and knowledge. And before making such an important decision, the government and institutions should offer an alternative.
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The pandemic won’t be able to change the situation significantly, but it will definitely highlight strong and weak aspects of teaching: both online and offline. During these troubling times, online resources are gaining more popularity, and remote teaching can boast a broad digital infrastructure for students worldwide.
Teacher Tapp, an application of British origin, has interviewed over 6,000 teachers, and it turned out that only 40% of state school educators are able to hold a video lesson. The rate is bigger – 69% – among independent school teachers.
Unfortunately, US tutors don’t have much choice. Once Italian schools and colleges were closed at the beginning of March, forums and social media for teachers were filled with comments and debates on the benefits and drawbacks of Moodle, Zoom, and other virtual classrooms. Some tutors know how to use these technologies, while many others have to face serious challenges.
Teachers across the world confess they could never think of becoming a YouTuber and telling about arts, history, and even giving physical education classes. But online classes cause difficulties not only for the teachers. Schoolers and students struggle as well. And here’s why.
Not all students are able to get online and join the virtual classroom. For example, 7 million American school-aged children don’t have the Internet at home and simply won’t be able to take classes even if the school holds them.
Let’s take China as an example. All schools and colleges were closed since the end of January, following the Lunar New Year. This urged the need to reconsider the idea and problems of learning online. Of course, the process isn’t smooth, and there are multiple problems to be solved: Internet access, creating a schedule, teaching tutors how to use the online platform, holding classes that are not accustomed to remote learning (for example, physical education).
In China, tutors need to submit plans for future lessons and wait for censor’s reviews, which causes significant delays. There has been a single teaching app and was bombarded with low grades and one-stars by students, who want the app to be removed from the store.
Some parents worry about the increased screen time because, during the quarantine, children have to spend lots of time in front of their computers. Thus, many parents and some students prefer printing out the materials to protect eyesight and keep up with the curriculum.
Unfortunately, even if the process is arranged properly, online education is a bad substitute for the activities that take place in a classroom. It is proven that students are not accustomed to learning online, especially those who have weaker skills and knowledge. Online sources can be a good option when students can’t be present in schools and colleges, but they are not a great option for most of the schoolers. Long time away from educational establishments will most likely damage the education.
The Covid-19 pandemic made us reconsider the pros and cons of online learning. Yes, it has certain potential, and the latest technologies may help schoolers in poor countries to gain an education. Of course, if these children and students have Internet access.
In 2018, experts evaluated users of the Mindspark app, which tests language and mathematical skills. And the results were rather impressive. However, the success of these initiatives greatly depends on a thorough organization and takes time. It is unlikely that changing schedules and educational programs in the middle of a pandemic will positively impact academic performance.