Time to rethink our education strategies

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The ministry of education this week released the 2020 Junior Certificate examination results and, not surprisingly, the pass rate lies at a miserly 59 percent, a marked drop from 62 percent in the previous year.

The ministry blames the Covid-19 pandemic for the poor pass rate which disrupted learning, forcing despaired students dropping out of school.

Studies show that school closures caused by the pandemic exacerbated previously existing inequalities, and that children who were already most at risk of being excluded from a quality education have been most affected.

Many children received no education after schools closed across the country in March last year.  Parents complained that their children were no longer learning, and were only waiting for the reopening to continue with their studies.

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Many children received no instruction, feedback, or interaction with their teachers. Education officials vouched that children are not taught during this period and that, although some students had received printed assignments, they agreed that was not normal education. Some students were just told to regularly reread their notes while waiting for new instructions from the authorities.

Students frequently studied fewer topics or less content through distance learning. Many students who struggled with online learning said they did not think they had the discipline to sit down and have no one teach them.

This had mental health consequences, as many students shared feelings of stress, anxiety, isolation, and depression, which they linked to the lack of contact with their school community.

Many parents were burdened by costs associated with trying to continue educating their children during school closures. Lack of access to radios, television, computers, internet, and data left many students unable to engage in remote learning.

In the light of this, we strongly believe digital literacy (for students and teachers) is increasingly recognized as an indispensable element of children’s right to education.