While the Government plans to return to the classroom in person with alternation, and Fecode and parents’ organizations reject this measure due to the health situation that the country is going through, another debate hangs over the education sector, and it is the impact generated by the isolation and closure of schools in the learning and social-emotional development of children.
This is a sensitive issue that the Minister of Education María Victoria Angulo recognized in dialogue with EL TIEMPO: “The evidence shows that isolation for children and young people had an emotional and learning impact. Addressing these aspects is going to be one of the main challenges for 2021 ”.
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At the moment, there are no clear figures of the affectation, but it is expected that with the publication of the results of the Saber 11 tests at the end of January, the first clues about the effects on education will be given, although some experts dare to say it is the equivalent of two years.
According to Francisco Cajiao, an expert in education and an advisor to the Ministry, what we will see will be a large-scale impact: “There is still no official data, but it can be said that the development of basic competencies at all ages is at risk because a large percentage of the population has not had easy access to education due to connectivity problems, doing homework on a cell phone or with physical guides without the correct advice from a teacher ”.
The expert believes that this could have serious consequences in different spheres, given that the risk of desertion is high, even though the official figure of 2.2 percent as of November 2020 seems to indicate that there was no growth in this regard: “It is a very serious problem because it can be a medium and medium trigger. long-term in the backwardness and poverty indices. Because those who suffer that, run the risk of dropping out of the school system altogether ”.
But in addition to the academic effects, several experts and international organizations have highlighted that there was also a considerable impact on the emotional and social development of children and adolescents.
Given this, Paula Andrea Senior, psychologist and associate professor at EAN University, highlighted that the lack of presence can be harmful for minors: “After eight months we can say that the children have already adapted to studying at home. But We all need presence, regardless of age, so they toon. Having contact with the other, the dynamics of interaction and physical contact are key to development ”.
And he added: “Socio-emotional skills have suffered, their development has been slower, but it is not something that cannot be recovered. It will be a much slower process, which can be enhanced by being present ”.
However, Senior believes that another six months from home would not significantly affect the development of children: “It is common to think that in this generation there was a delay in psychological and emotional matters, and that is not entirely true. Having contact again will be very positive, because virtuality does not allow them to strengthen skills and competencies such as empathy. But this does not mean that because of the isolation, and if it lasts a little longer, it cannot be recovered.
All this impact is also recognized by Fecode and the National Confederation of Parents, organizations that, however, refuse to return to the classroom.
“Of course we are concerned about the mental health of children, young people and the educational community as a whole due to physical isolation and the shortcomings to guarantee the right to education in decent conditions,” said Miguel Ángel Pardo, secretary Fecode’s educational affairs department, but insisted that they will not put these issues above health: “Exposing the people who make up the educational community to contagion does not seem safe, no matter how progressive the return is”.
Meanwhile, in a recent intervention, Henrrieta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, called on countries to reopen schools as soon as possible: “Despite overwhelming evidence of the impact of school closings on children, and despite the Growing evidence that schools are not drivers of the pandemic, too many countries have chosen to keep them closed. If children face another year of school closings, the effects will be felt for generations to come. “
How to recover what was lost?
The Ministry of Education announced several strategies to deal with learning delays and emotional and psychological problems this year. One of them is the Evaluate to Advance system that will allow teachers to find the shortcomings in the students’ academic process, and Emotions for Life that seeks to accompany this emotional development.
To this is added that this year the Icfes will carry out the Saber 3, 5 and 9 tests, which will be carried out for the first time since 2017 and with what is sought find the competencies that need to be reinforced.
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But Cajiao believes that, in addition to strengthening the evaluation, it is pertinent to make substantive changes: “We must make strong adjustments to the system that go through changes in the curriculum to emphasize the skills necessary for access to higher education and work , and I think that the Ministry of Education must already be thinking seriously about that ”.
‘There are regions that can return to the classroom’: María Victoria AnguloHow is it going to define where the alternation process starts before or after?
We analyzed three variables: occupancy of ICU beds, virus incidence rate (contagions) and population density. When the regions meet the conditions, they can start. But I must clarify that they will only reopen the schools as they comply with the biosafety adjustments to guarantee the health of the community. We are going to act responsibly, hand in hand with the health sector, which will help us verify these conditions.
What regions have the conditions to start the return and when would it be done?
There is a reality of the pandemic in cities like Bogotá, Cali or Medellín that leads us to work at home for longer. But we cannot extrapolate this to the whole country. There are regions that show that there are the conditions for the return in person, gradually. Soon we will tell you, region by region, where you can start.
Many have asked to continue all year from home …
The alternation allows to read the situation of the country, continue in person where possible and make responsible decisions. The children need it and the education secretariats have done a very serious job. Sometimes we forget that school works on the emotional and vitally strengthens children’s learning.
What do you say to parents and teachers who oppose the return?
It is understandable that the situation generates uncertainty, but we are making responsible decisions. Dialogue with principals, teachers, and families is required so that together we can achieve this gradual, progressive and safe return to the classroom.
MATEO CHACÓN ORDUZ