The COVID-19 pandemic, which is obviously a health crisis, has been a test for everything in our lives for the past six months; nearly all sectors were affected; businesses of both large and small scale, people’s jobs, communication channels, etc. To me, however, students were the most severely affected by this crisis, with the closure of schools, colleges and universities in most countries around the world and moving to teach (or trying to teach) through online learning platforms. The severe impact has been felt by many families, with parents trying to homeschool while also working from home, this did not only disrupt the parents work productivity, but also the children’s social life and learning.
Teaching the curriculum has moved online, and at the same time assessments had also moved online. The students of this year were tested on, and it was a matter of trial and error until schools tried to get the process as fluid as possible. Although this is a short-term issue, affected students may face long-term consequences which will ultimately lead to a learning gap. This will primarily be seen within the early learning students as parents found it most difficult trying to make them focused on completing learning material through the online channels. Going to school not only increases a child’s learning ability but also their social skills, and missing five months of schooling will indefinitely have an adverse effect on the skills of those students.
Most families are within the working class, with both parents working a 9-5 job even though most were working from home. Thus, to the disappointment of some parents, their kids were not sent home to play, and thus, those working-class parents had two jobs now, they were also educators, just so as to make sure that their kids don’t miss out on too much learning. While many parents could do just that, others were finding it extremely difficult to do both tasks at the same time. Parents were overwhelmed, there were, of course, some very inspirational moments, and other extremely difficult or shall we say angry moments, some extremely funny moments, and other depressing moments. But it seems like children from the same class will have.
Impacts on education: Families
So while global homeschooling will surely produce some inspirational moments, some angry moments, some fun moments, and some frustrating moments, it seems very unlikely that it will on average replace the learning lost from school. But the bigger point is this: there will likely be substantial disparities between families in the extent to which they can help their children learn. Key differences include (Oreopoulos et al. 2006) the amount of time available to devote to teaching, the non-cognitive skills of the parents, resources (for example, not everyone will have the kit to access the best online material), and also the amount of knowledge – it’s hard to help your child learn something that you may not understand yourself. Consequently, this episode will lead to an increase in the inequality of human capital growth for the affected cohorts.
The closure of schools, colleges, and universities not only interrupts the teaching for students around the world; the closure also coincides with a key assessment period and many exams have been postponed or canceled.
Internal assessments are perhaps thought to be less important and many have been simply canceled. But their point is to give information about the child’s progress for families and teachers. The loss of this information delays the recognition of both high potential and learning difficulties and can have harmful long-term consequences for the child. Andersen and Nielsen (2019) look at the consequence of a major IT crash in the testing system in Denmark. As a result of this, some children could not take the test. The authors find that participating in the test increased the score in a reading test two years later by 9% of a standard deviation, with similar effects in mathematics. These effects are largest for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Importantly, the lockdown of institutions not only affected internal assessments. In the UK, for example, all exams for the main public qualifications – GCSEs and A levels – have been canceled for the entire cohort.
Depending on the duration of the lockdown, we will likely observe similar actions around the world. One potential alternative for the canceled assessments is to use ‘predicted grades’, but Murphy and Wyness (2020) show that these are often inaccurate and that among high achieving students, the predicted grades for those from disadvantaged backgrounds are lower than those from more advantaged backgrounds. Another solution is to replace blind exams with teacher assessments. Evidence from various settings shows systematic deviations between unblind and blind examinations, where the direction of the bias typically depends on whether the child belongs to a group that usually performs well (Burgess and Greaves 2013, Rangvid 2015). For example, if girls usually perform better in a subject, an unblind evaluation of a boy’s performance is likely to be downward biased. Because such assessments are used as a key qualification to enter higher education, the move to unblind subjective assessments can have potential long-term consequences for the equality of opportunity.
It is also possible that some students’ careers might benefit from the interruptions. For example, in Norway, it has been decided that all 10th-grade students will be awarded a high-school degree. And Maurin and McNally (2008) show that in 1968 abandoning of the normal examination procedures in France (following the student riots) led to positive long-term labor market consequences for the affected cohort.
In higher education, many universities and colleges are replacing traditional exams with online assessment tools. This is a new area for both teachers and students, and assessments will likely have larger measurement errors than usual. Research shows that employers use educational credentials such as degree classifications and grade point averages to sort applicants (Piopiunik et al. 2020). The increase in the noise of the applicants’ signals will therefore potentially reduce the matching efficiency for new graduates on the labor market, who might experience slower earnings growth and higher job separation rates. This is costly both to the individual and also to society as a whole (Fredriksson et al. 2018).
The careers of this year’s university graduates may be severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. They have experienced major teaching interruptions in the final part of their studies, they are experiencing major interruptions in their assessments, and finally, they are likely to graduate at the beginning of a major global recession. Evidence suggests that poor market conditions at labor market entry cause workers to accept lower-paid jobs and that this has permanent effects on the careers of some. Oreopoulos et al. (2012) show that graduates from programs with high predicted earnings can compensate for their poor starting point through both within- and across-firm earnings gains, but graduates from other programs have been found to experience permanent earnings losses from graduating in a recession.
The global lockdown of education institutions is going to cause a major (and likely unequal) interruption in students’ learning; disruptions in internal assessments; and the cancellation of public assessments for qualifications or their replacement by an inferior alternative.
What can be done to mitigate these negative impacts? Schools need resources to rebuild the loss in learning, once they open again. How these resources are used, and how to target the children who were especially hard hit, is an open question. Given the evidence of the importance of assessments for learning, schools should also consider postponing rather than skipping internal assessments. For new graduates, policies should support their entry into the labor market to avoid longer unemployment periods.
Let us discuss this point by point:
The main one is the traditional education method is usually face-to-face, and because of this dilemma all parents and students had had a very difficult time as most of the schools were not prepared for online delivery of the curriculum, and even if they had some sort of a system, they didn’t know how to use it, and if they knew how to use it they were considering it as a PowerPoint presentation; so the students didn’t have the chance to use the online learning platforms previously, and thus the parents were scrambling to teach what they knew and didn’t know to their kids.
That is as far as schools are concerned; when it comes to universities, we all faced a very difficult time. Having said that, many international universities have presented good systems as their government was not opposed to online studies, to begin with. For our countries, though Online was a taboo and no one was able to change the governments’ mind on its importance.
The IB/A levels system of studies requires a sort of activity program in order to satisfy a school requirement (such as the Duke of Edinburgh and the Creativity, Activity, and Service for IB system. In these two systems, most of the students were not able to complete their projects. I felt that what these systems should have done is to ask the students to do something for helping on research to be published by the school, or some community service (without harming themselves such as planting trees, etc) instead of not completing this element of the IB or A level program. Of course, other school curriculum does not have extended essays or volunteering, and only depend on rhetorical learning techniques, which defeats the purpose of education.
The above challenges must make us all-the educators, the schools, the parents, the students, and every stakeholder in the largest industry in the world- think responsibly and have plans B, C, and Z; we must not leave it to chance. There will obviously be a gap in terms of the education level of students, especially within the younger students that achieve.
Ok let me tell you about technology, you have seen the quantum increase in the use of technology, from gaming to school programs, to ordering food, to producing goods and providing services, to TV and Cinema and many other things. With my experience in Corona teaching, the current systems are only suitable if we all have a great internet network at home. So with Zoom, for instance, the screen freezes and the voice is not as great as we need it to be, and there is no class management system. We tried to use a gaming application for teaching English to students from government schools, well, to stream we need a very high internet in our homes; now the idea of teaching the government school children is to supplement their learning, and we know that they are not able to purchase a high-end internet. I feel that technology-enabled teaching should start with having the highest level of the internet in the homes of the students. And this should be subsidized too.
The second problem is parent-dependent programs. I know that most parents can teach their children because we are talking about those born in the eighties and have all been to schools and universities. However, they are very busy people and are mostly all working, and to depend on their parents is not an option that we can settle for. Also depending on the teacher as if he or she are working 24 hours a day is not an option. What we need is a system that the child can practice on his/her own and can work independently.
This is the crunch of the matter and what I personally had learned during this pandemic; If the students are not independent learners, we will never be able to solve the issue. Again, here I am not speaking about the 1% who are obviously the best, I am speaking about the 99%.
We have many challenges ahead of us, but if we solve these few and impending issues, we will survive anything even an alien attack.