Low Income Education During COVID
For more than a decade now technology and the use of computer-based learning tools have been making inroads into the education system and were being used in the schools to augment the teaching tools. When the pandemic hit the world, including schools, had to go virtual for which they were largely underprepared. Teachers were not trained for conducting virtual classes and student groups did not all have access to computers, laptops, tablets or even smartphones needed for attending classes.
Virtual Classes are Necessary but Inadequate
It is no longer feasible for large public schools to run in full capacity. Virtual classrooms may not be the ideal substitute for physical classrooms, yet they ensure that students are not compelled to lose any academic time. Some schools, such as the one in Paulding County,
Georgia, have gone ahead and held normal classes with optional mask protocols. Most
schools, however, have stuck to the ever popular Zoom calling application for conducting online classes. Many higher education institutes have adopted online learning with hybrid classes which allow students flexibility in choosing how they want to approach learning. Considering the
shock of the sudden shift to virtual learning tools, the transition has been surprisingly smooth, and many are viewing it as a positive indication for future growth of technology in education
industry.However, these indications overlook the ancillary purpose of physical classrooms
and schools in ensuring the student is well-adjusted socially, which happens through
interaction with other students, teachers, participating in competitions, and interacting with
individuals and groups. Also, the benefits of virtual learning do not reach the lower class in
the socioeconomic hierarchy.
Students from economically backward communities and minority groups with unstable
incomes may not have access to technology needed for taking full advantage of virtual
learning. They may have basic computers or bad Wi-Fi that do not allow them to participate
in Zoom classes. Lack of physical space will make it difficult for students to get the privacy
needed for taking online classes within the confines of their homes. Research by Pew
Research Centre shows that 41% low-income parents, 21% middle income parents and 17% high income parents feel that their children might fall behind in their learning by not attending full-time school and physical classes.
A study conducted by Mckinsey& Co. shows how much learning students lose during school
Closure varies significantly by access to remote learning, the quality of remote instruction, home support, and the degree of engagement. They grouped high school students into three scenarios. The first group students had average-quality remote learning that would progress at a slower pace than if they had remained in school. The second group had some students who were getting lower-quality remote learning and were stagnating at their current grade levels. The third group students were not getting any instructions and were falling behind their peers. Finally, there was a fourth group that would dropout of high school altogether.
The Way Forward
To make best of the situation it is important to ensure some amount of equity is attained by
making resources accessible to everyone who needs it. UNESCO lists distance learning
solutions as part of its COVID-19 education response that offer free learning tools to
students. Tennessee is recruiting 1000 college students to tutor kids who are falling behind,
and New York will be conducting remote summer school for 177,700 students. Irrespective
of how accessible learning tools become, they cannot substitute schools and hence the onus falls on the education system to provide creative solutions. Schools can also work with high-income parents and create support groups to ensure all the students get equal opportunities. Working closely with technology companies, even teachers should be trained to effectively handle technology so that online learning is engaging and effective.