As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries have rightly chosen to close schools, colleges and universities. People around the world are anxiously tracking the numbers of new cases and deaths due to COVID-19 while overlooking other catastrophic effects of the pandemic on grave subjects such as domestic violence, and children’s education.
The short-term cessation of school activities especially for 7 to 14-year-olds is felt by many families around the world: homeschooling is not only taking its toll on parents’ productivity but also affects children’s social life and learning. Teaching is moving online, on an untested and unprecedented scale.
As of 20th March 2020, the UN estimates that 1.25 billion children are currently at home as a result of the coronavirus lockdown. It is hard to fathom the effects of this disruption on children around the world. With the change in their regular weekday routines, many children will be finding it hard to suddenly have their parents as teachers – while many parents will be trying to suppress the urge not to scream at them.
While global homeschooling will surely produce some fun moments, some frustrating moments, some inspirational moments and some angry moments, it seems very unlikely that it will wholly replace the learning lost from school.
The closure of schools will inevitably bring about substantial disparities between families in the extent to which they can help their children learn. Key differences include the amount of time available to devote to teaching, the non-cognitive skills of the parents and resources available to them (for example, not everyone will have the kit to access the best online material). In addition, the amount of knowledge of parents will greatly determine the quality of learning that will be provided to the children– it’s hard to help your child learn something that you may not understand yourself.
While many parents are already opting for online resources to cater for their children’s education needs, not all homes have access to these resources. Even for those who do, not all will be able to bear the accumulative cost of data. There is also the possibility of occasional interruptions in learning sessions due to unstable networks from service providers. What then can be done to mitigate this problem?
As part of our HatchBox program, the CANs is actively supporting companies that work in line with achieving Goal 4. In light of this, innovation driven Edtech products like YodaBox and Excellence in Passing O-Levels (EXPO) are available to provide offline & online audio-visual learning instructions with customized syllabuses for students, especially during this lockdown period.
Federal and state governments, as well as the national education board all have huge roles to play in ensuring that children don’t lag behind in their education as a result of the school closure. By subsidizing some of these learning tech products, they will become more accessible to more homes, while ensuring that children can also remain productive during the lockdown.
Children have not generally been sent home to play. The idea is that they continue their education at home, in the hope of not missing out too much. Sooner or later, schools will resume. While it is bound to be a tricky transition for students to go from watching Nickelodeon to landing straight back to the middle of an academic session, the learning they’re exposed to during lockdown will determine how easy or difficult the transition will be.