The world is currently witnessing a major event that threatens education. As of March 28, 2020, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has left more than 1.6 billion children and young people out of school in 161 countries, estimated at nearly 80% of the world’s school attendance. This came at a time when we are already experiencing a global education crisis, there are many students who are not receiving the basic skills they need in life.
The World Bank’s Index shows that the proportion of students- who can’t read or understand by the age of ten- in developing countries before the outbreak of the virus is 53%. If we do not act, this pandemic could make that outcome even worse.
Challenges and obstacles, we face due to certain circumstances
There are lots of challenges that will affect the children and their parents as well. These challenges may increase our concerns in this difficult time we live, the most important of these challenges are:
- Inequality in the educational systems, which afflicts most countries, will no doubt affect poor children the most.
- A late start or interruption of the school year (depending on where you live) will cause complete disruption to the lives of many children, their parents, and teachers. Much can be done to reduce these impacts, at least through distance learning strategies. Developed countries are better prepared to move to online learning strategies. But the situation in both middle-income and developing countries is not the same, and if we do not act appropriately, that inequality of opportunity – which is unacceptable – will only worsen.
- Many children do not have a study desk, no books, no internet access, or no laptops at home, and there are those who do not have the support of their parents as hoped, while others have all the above. We must therefore avoid widening these disparities in opportunities – or reducing them where possible – and avoid increasing the negative impacts on the learning of poor children.
How did countries deal with online learning?
Fortunately, we are seeing in this regard to great creativity in many countries. Many ministries of education are already justifiably concerned about relying on internet-based strategies. The appropriate strategy for the majority of countries is to use all possible means provided by the existing infrastructure to deliver the service. Online tools can be used to make plans, videos, tutorials, and other resources available to some students and most likely to teachers. But you should also use audio recordings and other resources that consume less data. Work should be done with telecommunications companies to implement fee-free policies to facilitate the download of learning materials on smartphones, which are often carried by most students.
Poor students face obstacles to distance education
Since the Ministries of Education in many countries have announced the adoption of “distance education” during the disruption of schools to prevent the coronavirus, students and parents have complained about the difficulty of accessing educational content and the inability to provide electronic exams due to the lack of necessary technologies among thousands of students, while the ministry has not provided any practical solutions for them.
Their decisions based on the availability of internet subscriptions and smart devices in every home. But unfortunately, there are thousands of homes that do not have smart devices. And thousands more don’t have the financial means to pay for internet subscriptions. And this is not only to families living in remote areas but also to hundreds of families in major cities. However, many homes do not have internet coverage at all.
These families will try to manage their affairs so that their children can submit the final exams. Some may get in dept to provide requirements, and some may make use of the available internet access in the neighborhood or at some relative’s home, but the majority will not be able to do so
How could the governments face these challenges?
Countries can find their own path through a political commitment to implement investments and reforms in 3 important stages:
- Prepare and motivate students to learn with an increased focus on full child development
- Appreciation of teachers and supporting them by technology that enables them to teach students of a variety of educational levels.
- Educational resources, including effective learning methods, that support educational practices that allow each student to study at any level they need.
And the solution!
All education systems have one job: To overcome the learning crisis we are currently experiencing and to address the pandemic we all face. The challenge today is to reduce the negative impacts of this pandemic by learning as much as possible. Also to use this experience to get back on the path of improving learning at a faster pace. As they addressing this crisis, education systems must also think about how to emerge from it stronger than ever. With a clear understanding of the urgency of the need to close gaps in educational opportunities and ensure that all children have equal educational opportunities.