As people were locked behind their doors, as commuting came to a halt and as smiles began hiding under masks, every single person was weaving a plethora of stories to share about their lives, out of the threads of each and every moment that passed during the pandemic. The coronavirus pandemic has spread to every country and region on the planet, since its outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan in November 2019. As of March 24, 2022, the virus has caused over 473 million infections and killed over 6 million people. As of today we have had successful vaccination drives, lockdowns are anomalous and the citizens of almost all countries have received a green flag to bring their lives back to normal, but for better or worse, Covid 19 has entirely transformed us. From virtual meetings being popular to economies suffering a big time, we saw a big paradigm shift in how societies used to work. It is important for us to look at both sides of the coin when we are speaking about this post-covid shift. On one hand, people started reconnecting and started slowly mending pre-existing wounds in their relationships. With the increasing number of deaths, we saw people understanding the significance of having their loved ones with them. Besides that, a growing engrossment and awareness of mental health was also witnessed during this time. But on the other hand, the covid outbreak left people with permanent scars as they lost their near and dear ones and thousands of others lost their jobs.
One of the stark and detrimental effects of the pandemic was seen on children, especially on their academics and learning. As schools were forced to shut down due to the outbreak of covid – 19, we saw physical, one-to-one teaching getting transformed into online teacher-student interaction. From the sounds of pages ruffling and pen’s scribblings, children switched to mindless scrolling and incessant gaping at their laptop screen in order to acquire learning. Lack of learning in classrooms and absence of the physical presence of teachers, resulted in poor performance of the students, as they were highly distracted and lethargic, staying at home and learning online. Since there was no proper monitoring of how the students behaved while attending classes and giving tests online, students soon started taking their education nonchalantly. Poor mental health and the dearth of outdoor activities also led to impoverished functioning of cognitive functions and higher-order thinking skills.
Dr. Karen Lewis is a senior research scientist, who has conducted multiple studies on the pandemic’s effect on education. She claims that today we’re seeing that at the start of the 21-22 school year, achievement in both reading and maths is lower than historic averages and the expert says that the students of colour and students in high-poverty areas have been impacted the most. The achievement gaps that already existed before the pandemic have only been dramatically exacerbated over the two years. UNESCO reported that over 1.5 billion students in 195 countries are out of school in the world due to school closures.
Not only students, but staff and teachers all around the world, struggled hand in hand with the students. As a result of distance learning, teachers found it hard to endow students with proper knowledge as unconventional tools of teaching were being used. Teachers had to familiarize themselves with online teaching platforms. Some private schools did not pay their staffs’ salaries and some schools were paying only half of their salary. The task of bringing ideas to life with words, occasionally with the assistance of a chalkboard, or by reading a page is limited down to monitors and implicit communication with one another.
COVID-19 also acted as a catalyst for digital adoption in school education and this, once again, bridged a wider gap between the haves and the have-nots, especially in India. Not every household was equipped with electronic devices like laptops and tablets and families having more than two or three children found it hard to confer the kids with devices to learn. The government recommended kids learn through home-accessible radio and television lessons. Radio and television lessons may be effective for some children and students in metropolitan areas, but most rural parents did not have access to radios or television programs. In Ethiopia, for example, more than 80% of the inhabitants live in rural regions with limited or no availability of electricity, posing challenges for children in rural areas to engage in studies through radio and television classes.
Learning online did have a silver lining as students were able to adhere to a more flexible schedule which helped them manage their time properly during the lockdown. As teaching platforms became digital, graduates were able to access a wider range of courses at a much cheaper price, this was especially beneficial for the ones living in remote areas. According to an article by EHL Hospitality Business School, many students claimed that online learning made them more technologically literate and it had also helped them to learn better as they were situated in a comfortable space like home.
Therefore, the repercussions of COVID-19 on education are bound to be felt for many years to come. The pandemic has caused a tremendous amount of issues for the education sector, ranging from learning loss and growing achievement gaps to increased stress and worry among students and educators. It is imperative that we emphasize the needs of our students and educators as we continue to recover and rebuild. This might include investing in targeted interventions to help individuals most affected by the pandemic, as well as using innovative teaching and learning strategies to better prepare children for the future. We can create a better and more equitable future for all learners by working together and taking a proactive strategy for confronting these difficulties.