Published on April 2
COVID-19 has forced a total of 185 countries to close their schools. This measure has affected 1.5 billion children and young people who in total account for nearly 90% of the world’s students, according to UNESCO. The unprecedented interruption of schooling has immediate and long-term effects, and educational policies must address both.
Argentina has more than 10 million students who now spend the entire day in their homes. The National Ministry of Education is responding to this emergency with various strategies. The answer is based on the “We Continue to Educate” platform, with access to multiple digital educational resources and educational programming on television and radios. These virtual initiatives are combined with the delivery of pedagogical booklets, designed for those students with less access to technology. For their part, provincial governments offer their own platforms, in many cases distributing printed material while making a big effort to ensure the continuity of school food service. These policies are relevant and indispensable in the current scenario.
In addition to school inequalities, the closure of schools makes us look into the difference among households. As school is no longer the place where you learn (at least for now), housing conditions, access to technological devices and each family’s educational capital are factors that manifest themselves in a diverse way in our national territory. This unequal distribution results in very different possibilities of pedagogical continuity in a context of class suspension. Therefore, the State’s response must be dynamic and flexible to differing realities, and it must consider immediate actions with medium- and long-term policies that take these differences into account.
An analysis that goes beyond this critical juncture invites us to think of compensation strategies so students can make up for lost learning time. The flexibility of the school calendar becomes an indispensable tool. This context also prompts a discussion regarding knowledge evaluation and accreditation mechanisms that, anchored in the current school cycle, involves tending to the differentiated routes of students before the suspension of classes. In addition, it is necessary to work on necessary infrastructure conditions so that students who need it the most can deal with both the current and future disruptions and its effects. At this point, the expansion of Internet coverage and connection quality, as well as a digital education policy that is based on content production and distribution of technological devices with a powerful pedagogical use, emerge as priority policy options.
The pandemic will deepen inequalities and exacerbate the already existing educational gap. To mitigate its effects, a key state response must combine short-term emergency-oriented intervention and medium- and long-term interventions that look to compensate for lost teaching time, especially for students in situations of greater vulnerability.