Countries that already had a good quality school network – as measured by their students’ performance on the Pisa World Test – have managed to reduce the number of days with schools closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, shows a report recently released by the OECD, a group of 38 rich and emerging countries.
“In other words, education systems with lower learning outcomes have already lost more learning opportunities in 2020,” said Andreas Schleicher, director of education and skills for the organization.
A stronger education network explains 54% of the variation in the number of days secondary schools were closed last year, according to the report, and it’s not just because countries are richer or because they were less affected by the pandemic.
Even when the numbers are controlled by GDP per capita, the quality of education explains 31% of the variation, and there are those who have reopened countries where the infection rate was previously high.
“What makes the difference is that in these countries there is a structured and reliable educational network capable of creating safe environments more quickly,” says Schleicher.
Among the 38 OECD countries, the number of days primary and secondary schools were closed last year ranged from less than 20 in Denmark to almost 180 in Costa Rica – the group average was 68 days. Austria and Italy, European countries that are not among those with the highest marks in Pisa, canceled face-to-face classes for almost three months, while Ireland, Finland and South Korea – with high learning performance – have not reached two months.
“This means that the crisis has not only amplified educational inequalities within countries, but it is likely that it has also widened the performance gap between different countries,” said the director of the OECD. For Schleicher, there is no doubt that the suspension of classes affects the education of children and young people. “Learning is a social phenomenon; schools are not only a place for the transmission of academic knowledge, but also for human contact and for the training of various other skills, ”he said.
While it is difficult to predict exactly how the lockdowns will affect the future development of students, the OECD cited estimates from last year by economists Eric Hanushek and Ludger Woessmann. According to them, each lost learning trimester, considering students from grades 1 to 12, would result in a 3% loss of income over their entire working life.
This, according to economists, represents a long-term cost ranging from US $ 504 billion (2.868 billion reais) in South Africa to US $ 14.2 trillion (80.82 billion reais) in the United States, every three lost learning months.
Another damage reported is the difficulty of correctly assessing student learning from a distance. Some countries maintained the application of the tests, while others automatically approved all students. “But the most important thing, which is the teacher’s ability to perceive each other’s challenges and help overcome them, has been lost without close contact.”
On a personal level, Schleicher says, the impact of the changes imposed by the pandemic must also have been different. “For those students who were able to integrate into online education and learn to learn on their own, it may have been liberating. But for those who lacked resources and support, it was devastating.
The survey shows that most countries have tried to make adaptations to maintain learning despite the restrictions of the health crisis, with the use of online courses, television and radio programs, face-to-face classes in venues. open or an increase in school days.
According to the OECD, as of February 1 of this year, three countries had all grade levels functioning normally: Japan, New Zealand and Norway. There were 60% of those who had already returned to primary education, fully or partially, and 7 out of 10 had open preschools.
Among the measures taken to speed up the return to face-to-face lessons, 80% of the networks have made adjustments to the physical space of the classrooms, 50% have reduced extra-curricular activities and 40% have spread the days between live lessons or remotely.
PRIORITY VACCINATION FOR TEACHERS
The organization also points out that priority vaccination by teachers was one of the ways found to make classroom teaching safer, although the decision was not easy, “given the limited initial supply of vaccines and the need to protect the most vulnerable “.
In March 2021, a survey showed that, among 30 countries with comparable data, 19 prioritized primary school teachers in vaccination campaigns: Austria, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Turkey.
Several have adopted sub-criteria, such as the age of teachers (older people are vaccinated beforehand) or the grade level at which they work (those who need to be in close contact with students, such as those in school). early childhood education, are at the beginning of the line).
In 11 countries – Belgium, Costa Rica, Denmark, United Kingdom, Finland, France, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland – teachers are subject to the same vaccination schedule as the general population or do not have still of precise date.
Despite the damage caused by the pandemic, Schleicher said he hoped the crisis had brought about positive change. First, parents have come to understand the difficulties in teaching and learning more clearly. “Even before the pandemic, schools were providing more and more services, and parents, clients and everyone wanted to push the problem to each other,” he said. The OECD director said there could be a gain in greater involvement of parents in their children’s learning.
“It doesn’t mean spending three hours helping with homework, but showing that you consider education to be important. The simple question “how was your day at school” brings many more benefits. “