Restrained Education Will Affect One Entire Generation

06/11/2020

How optimistic were the assumptions that primary and secondary schools will be reopened in November? Unfortunately, in the light of thousands of everyday positively tested, these words sound more like a bad joke. The temporary state of emergency in education persists, and even though teachers continue to teach, the problems have not disappeared. It is now quite clear that the coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions associated with it will negatively affect an entire generation of schoolchildren. In addition, the current form of teaching poses a significant security risk.

First of all, I want to say that I have big respect for the educators and their efforts these days. The vast majority of them do their best to cope with very difficult situation and to provide their students with education as effectively as they can. For both sides, the educators and the students, distance learning is a huge burden they were not prepared for. Now they have to think of impromptu methods of how to make all materials and procedures, primarily designated for classroom work, work remotely. And that is definitely not an easy task, especially since they have to do so on the fly. Individual approach to students is, in most cases, more of a dream.

It is also necessary to realize that what many people may consider a standard - a computer for every member of the family or a work laptop available - is utopia for many families. Some families only have one laptop (if they own one at all) which is now supposed to be shared by children who need it for study purposes and their parents who more and more often work from home. Similarly, there are many teachers who often have to use their personal laptops for work.

As a result, there is a significant reduction in the availability and quality of education. Unfortunately, this situation will mostly affect those students who had been requiring a special approach before the restriction took place. To some children, teachers simply have to pay more attention either because they learn more slowly or, conversely, because they are more gifted than others. Distance learning in its current form does not allow for an individual approach. Children who need help to keep up will fall even further behind and the gifted will not be able to develop their potential. And I am afraid it will take a long time before everything gets back to normal, if at all.

But every cloud has a silver lining. I sincerely hope that the Ministry of Education will use this situation as an impetus to place much greater emphasis on the development of online education with all its aspects, including the safety ones, in the future. In the current situation, teachers often use tools that are not exactly suitable for distance education, and thus expose themselves and their students to many risks, including the risk of sensitive data leakage. These are not social security numbers and addresses of the pupils; it can also include their grades, evaluation, information about their health status, or it can be any teachers' notes about students.

An unintended but positive consequence of the current situation could also be that parents take on more of the responsibility for educating their children. I do not mean they would study more with them - that is often not even possible nowadays, especially at higher levels. Rather than that, the situation could help parents discover other educational tools than just those provided by their school. At the same time, it can motivate them to try to look beyond the limits of the school curriculum when educating their children. Personally, I support the Center for Talented Minds, which has been offering great courses for talented children of any field, providing individualized teaching in English. However, there are many others; nowadays, there are many possibilities and they often replace the very personal approach that children do not receive in the current form of education.

Hopefully the pandemics is nearing its peak and all pupils and students will be able to return to schools after Christmas at the latest. And even though the current pandemics and the impact on education are unprecedented in the Czech Republic, like most crisis, this one also brings a number of lessons to be learned. We can only believe it will bear fruit.

I publish my articles also on the Aktuálně.cz blog.