What will be the effect of school closures for weeks or months?

In our country schools have already been suspended until April 3 – and then the Easter holidays will follow. It is still uncertain what will happen after the Easter holidays. Many countries are now in the same situation

But what are the effects of such a period without a lesson? We are in unprecedented territory and I don’t want to criticize the suspension of the lessons. I think it was the only decision one could make, but let me make an educated guess about what could be the consequences.

  • Parallel to what we know about the learning effect of long summer vacation – the learning effect of which is Hattie – .02 – you can expect that the effect on learning can be negative on average if education is neglected completely. In my classes, I explain that this is an average and that for some the effect can be positive if the children are giving some culture, if they read a lot, etc. The question is how this will be the case now, now that almost everything else is also closing, traveling is hardly an option, and the library is also closed in many places.
  • Plans are being made for online classes and distance learning. To be clear: this is not something you just do and then by definition end up with something qualitative and/or effective. It’s maybe true: anything is better than nothing. But what about children with poor or limited access to technology. What about a family with three children and, for example, only 1 computer? And no, many primary school children do not yet have their own mobile phone. Communication will become the biggest challenge here. It is certainly true that today many parents and therefore their children can be digitally reached, but there still remains a large group of families that are difficult to reach for many possible reasons, one also being parents who speak a different language.
  • For children in the early years, the different forms of automation of reading, writing, and arithmetic can get a serious dent if they can not practice enough.
  • School tests are not going to be an option – although I suspect that there will be schools that will also try to do tasks online. This can lead to tougher evaluation moments at the end of the school year. Some parents will let their children keep up enough, others may approach the coming weeks as a very strange kind of holiday. At the same time, in some countries, there will still remain some children who will spend all the time in school because their parents are working in crucial and vital jobs, and they may receive some lessons or training under the radar.
  • Teachers will have to make choices in the curriculum because not everything can be moved online, not everything can be shifted, etc.
  • In the meantime, some people hope that this can lead to a shift in education and the digitization of education, but hold your horses. This may be possible in higher education, but I suspect that the younger the children are, the less likely this is. In any case, distance learning for toddlers is not really an option.
  • The differences between schools can also become enormous.

An important challenge will be that it will become very hard for teachers to support their children. Reaching out online is one thing, discussing this problem in class is something completely different.

What is striking about all this:

  • the pressure on parents may increase. In any case, families will be more dependent on each other, without many opportunities to escape because everything is closed.
  • There is a real chance that the effect of these closures will differ much between different children and therefor the inequality between children can and probably will increase.
  • After this many schools will have to simultaneously remedy what was lost, such as after a long holiday, and still have to try to realize part of the curriculum in a shorter time.
  • Communication will remain a challenge, it will remain hard to reach everyone.

I personally think that the media – classic and online – can play an important role in all this. I am thinking, among other things, of good texts for children with, for example, an explanation of everything that happens but also some really needed alternatives for closed libraries. The problem is that everything has to be arranged quickly while everybody is asked to stay at home.

Do take care of each other!

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