The interruption of face-to-face classes due to the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in an increase in educational inequalities, the loss of learning, a decrease in future employment opportunities and the deterioration of the physical and emotional health of students, among other effects. In people with low socioeconomic levels, greater learning losses and greater inequality in women.
The conclusion comes from the report “What are the consequences of the interruption of face-to-face classes?”, From the Observatorio Argentinos por la Educación, authored by Guillermina Tiramonti (FLACSO), Víctor Volman and Federico Braga. The document revealed different investigations that allow estimating some consequences of school closings.
Inequality in academic performance increased up to 20% in students according to a survey done in Belgium. “The suspension of face-to-face classes has a different impact on the different sectors of a society. In the case of the most vulnerable groups, research shows a greater negative effect given that they do not have the same material and symbolic supports as the students belonging to the groups with the highest purchasing power, ”the report states.
Regarding the loss of learning, a study carried out in the United States affirms that elementary school children could lose close to 70% of 2020 learning in reading and up to 50% in math. For their part, kindergarten children could experience a loss of literacy of up to 67%.
In addition, in that country, low-income households were the most affected, since after the closure of schools, between March and May, students lost 36% in learning mathematics, while high-income households improved in learning by 45.5%.
The surveys indicate that students who did not attend face-to-face classes suffered negative consequences in their emotional health, particularly boys and girls with mental health needs, as they saw limited access to resources that they usually have through schools.
According to a study carried out in the United Kingdom, 83% of students with mental health needs worsened their conditions as a result of the school closure caused by the pandemic. 26% of these children stated that they were unable to access resources outside of school to access mental health support, affecting the most vulnerable population.
Physical health was also compromised: surveys in Italy show that during school closings increased consumption of sugary drinks and high-calorie food, while weekly physical activity decreased and screen time increased. A study conducted in Japan indicated that 15% of surveyed parents reported that their children gained weight during this period.
“The document emphasizes the knowledge losses caused by the lack of presence. Not only because there are many children and young people who lack connectivity or the necessary technological supports, but also in almost all cases the learning process requires the support of an adult with adequate cultural resources for this task ”, describes Guillermina Tiramonti, co-author of the report.
The negative pedagogical effects are estimated to be accentuated in low-income countries, and particularly affect women. In these countries, women belonging to quintile 1 – the one with the highest resources – have a school dropout rate of 18%, while for men the figure is 13.5%, which increases gender inequality.
“The option for educational virtuality and the growing social segregation of Argentine education imply that the poorest boys have had much less schooling than those with greater resources, “says Juan Llach, former Minister of Education. And he adds: “Despite the uncertainty in 2021 of the intensity of the Covid and the availability of vaccines, it would be very unfair for the poorest to repeat educational practices almost 100% virtual by 2020. The alternative paths are not easy, but it would be much more difficult to recover the losses of the learning of full virtuality ”.
“There is already abundant evidence that indicates the seriousness of the impact that the lack of face-to-face education has had on children and young people during the past school year. Experts from all over the world agree on the magnitude of the deficit in the training of students of various educational levels. This will have serious consequences not only for their lives but also for the future development of the societies in which they operate. These verifications, together with several studies that coincide in highlighting the low risk of contagion in face-to-face classes when appropriate precautions are taken, point to the urgency of returning to face-to-face education, ”warns Guillermo Jaim Etcheverry, president of the National Academy of Education .
“Although structural poverty is pre-existing to the pandemic, the prolonged interruption of classes deepens existing social inequalities and deprivations, articulating with social processes of inclusion and exclusion, which affect the educational trajectories and life courses of many children and young people. . Without school there is no possibility of education for everyone, and this means recognizing teaching as a specialized task and teachers as a central tool of an educational policy based on the care and defense of school action ”, says education specialist Tamara Vinacur.
Attend school virtually full time reduces 10% chance of graduating from high school, a factor associated with greater employability. School closure is associated with worse results in standardized tests – such as the PISA – which is often used as a parameter of fewer job opportunities.
“The effects of the suspension of face-to-face classes have a negative impact both in the short term and in the long term, both in the individual dimension and in the general situation of the countries,” the authors affirm. The specific evidence of a country is not necessarily extensible to Argentina, but given the lack of studies in the region, these investigations help to think about possible consequences and harmful effects ”.