COVID 19 has made educational inequality worse. It’s impacts are particularly worse for lower income and disadvantaged children says Ruberta Bisson
The sudden shift to online learning
As soon as the pandemic hit, students were forced to shift to online learning with barely a week’s notice. Schools all over made efforts to be accommodating and provide equipment wherever possible. For many, it was just not enough. Children with emerging or pre-existing learning disabilities or mental health challenges were left scrambling in the dark.
Rising educational inequality
As a young student moves through primary school, they are expected to engage with their peers and learn basic social skills. Students with sufficient family support are able to manage their time well while remote learning. Lower-ability students, however, may struggle to cope without the in-person support of teachers.
Online learning requires an increased involvement of family members. This isn’t feasible in all cases, due to the lack of time or knowledge. Even in cases where increased parental support was possible, it often proved to be a poor substitute for group classroom learning.
In the absence of the chance for students to fill in the gaps in their knowledge that an entire year of remote learning has caused, the gulf between advantaged and disadvantaged students will only widen. This doesn’t bode well for their future prospects.
The future of education
Solutions suggested after each lockdown included longer days, missing holidays and intense tutoring. In my opinion, unless the student wants that, this could be seen as an undeserved punishment. Working longer and harder won’t help matters much, but maybe changing what we work on will.
There should be a greater focus on wellbeing and thinking about the future. For students in primary, it’d be kinder to develop basic skills in numeracy and literacy but drop the rest in favour of having fun together. This will teach resilience and these skills will last a lifetime. Students in lower secondary (Years 7 to 9) should again be focusing on building resilience and covering core content.
Education for students in years 10, 11 and sixth form should focus on independent inquiry and transferable skills. Projects should be based around their interests. Schools have a duty to prepare students for the future, not merely turn them into rote learners of facts.
Decision makers cannot take a “one size fits all” approach to COVID19 recovery measures.”
If catchup isn’t managed well, students would need to rush through the previous year’s syllabus without getting a good understanding of the content. Learning is about expanding your mind and developing new skill sets, not just learning to pass an exam. In stressful times like these, this often gets overlooked and the outcome is a lost generation who should have had it better.
Ruberta Bisson is a 24 year old, female, young adult carer from the UK. She wrote her pieces on COVID-19 as part of Restless Development’s Build Back Better campaign. She has a blog under her name on Medium where she discusses mental health. She's also a part-time tutor and in her spare time she likes to listening rock music, reading and politics.