There have been major disruptions to school schedules since March 2020 when the first wave of COVID-19 hit the shores of North America.
Students of all ages, from elementary through university, have now faced several stops and starts, the full impacts of which are not even fully understood yet. As provinces such as Alberta and Ontario implement differing strategies for a return to classrooms, the common element is that parents have grown very frustrated that their kids’ education has gone online, and mental health (for kids and parents alike) has taken a backseat.
Technology is also a factor in all of this and the capacity for technology, including broadband ability, to deliver effective online lessons and an adequate school experience for all.
“At school, children are doing a lot more than just learning, there’s a lot of social skills that are developed, there’s routine, there’s safety, all of those things built into the structure of school,” says Amber Mac, president of AmberMac Media and co-host of The Feed on Sirius XM. “It truly is an essential service that unfortunately we just haven’t prioritized.”
A lack of movement and socialization can have very negative repercussions, especially on mental health, says Mac, and in the months and years to come, the government will need to amp up mental health support.
Mac has good knowledge of virtual events, and while the technology is there, it still takes a personable element to make things like conferences, business dealings, and school environments engaging.
Hear more from Mac, in conversation with Shaun Haney here, story continues below player:
Here are some of the social media responses on the topic:
We’re debating not participating in online shit this time
— Evan (@HV_holsteins) January 3, 2022
And in Alberta too for extending it a week even, enough’s enough when it comes to my kids education,
— Alan Brecka (@Breckafarms) January 3, 2022
I’ve already seen a posting from parents looking to hire a tutor/teacher for a group of students. I think this may be a popular option this time around.
— Brad Clark (@Clarklynd) January 3, 2022
Tried and failed with online learning in our household. I don’t think that to expect elementry school kids to just flush their education down the toilet is an option. A grade 12 education in this country is a basiic human right!
— Will Lowe (@wlowe123) January 3, 2022
It’s not a debate in my house, it’s just not happening. My 8 year old looked at me and said ‘mom, since the governor won’t let us go to school I’m heckin not doing it online, because it’s stupid and I don’t learn.”
— Krista Alden (@kristaalden) January 3, 2022
I sympathize with governments attempting to keep everyone happy through a pandemic that does not want to go away over the long term, and has presented different challenges with each wave. But the data is beginning to show the impacts of restrictions on children’s ability to learn within a traditional classroom setting.
In a Washington Post column, Anthony Faoila argues that “The burden of missed months in the classroom could linger for a lifetime. Worldwide, the study estimates, the pandemic generation is at risk of losing $17 trillion in future earnings from knowledge deficits, significantly more than the $10 trillion estimated last year, the new report concludes. The worse outlook stems from school closures that have lasted longer than earlier estimates and assessments that remote learning often fell short of the mark”
Although it is easy to be critical in hindsight it does seem that the same decisions on school closures and online school remain a common strategy during the current Omnicron wave.
According to the Economist, “young brains are being starved of stimulation. Primary-school pupils in England are around three months behind where they normally would be; children in Ethiopia learned 60-70% less than usual during 2020. Even before the pandemic things were bad. More than half of ten-year-olds in low- and middle-income countries could not read a simple paragraph. The World Bank warns this could rise to almost two-thirds. In all countries school closures will widen the gap between better-off pupils (who have iPads and quiet bedrooms for remote learning) and worse-off ones (who often don’t).”
For farmers in remote rural areas there have been challenges with internet connections, balancing work responsibilities while being full time homeschool teachers and also the major stress that their kids are falling behind scholastically.
As one farmer stated to me, “The whole thing comes down to a capacity issue and I am full stop out of time to do all this at the required level.”
Ultimately, the final toll on kids between the ages of five to 18 won’t be fully understood until 2050, but in the meantime, parents feel frustrated, guilty, and burned out trying to support the education their kids deserve.