Across school systems worldwide, the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified disparities. According to a UNESCO study released on Tuesday, about 40 percent of low- and lower-middle-income countries have not assisted learners at risk of exclusion during this crisis, such as the young, linguistic minorities and learners with disabilities.
According to Global Education Surveillance Report 2020, efforts to sustain the continuity of learning during the pandemic may actually have exacerbated exclusion trends. About 91% of students all over the world were out of school during the April 2020 school closures.
The study states, that while many poorer countries prefer radio and television lessons, 55% of the low income countries, 73% of the smaller-to-medium incomes and 93% of the high-mid-income countries embraced online training platforms for education, all of them provided less or more limited alternatives to classroom instruction.
The mix of all three education continuity systems has been used in India. “Since governments increasingly rely on technology, there are the constraints of this approach in the digital divide. Not all students and teachers are able to use the available resources with sufficient access to Internet connectivity, facilities, expertise, and working conditions, “the study added.
School closures also interrupted mechanisms to support a large number of disadvantaged students. Services may not be accessible to blind and deaf students outside classrooms, but children with cognitive handicaps or with autism may be dealing with self-employment before the computer or interruption of everyday school routines. Closings have been a major blow to poor students, who are dependent on school for free food or even free toiletries.
Cancellation of examinations in many countries, including India, that result in scoring based on teachers’ judgements of students instead, which could be influenced by perceptions of certain types of students, said the study. Higher dropout rates are also of concern: many older girls have never returned to school after the crisis has ended after an earlier Ebola outbreak in Africa.
In order to combat the situation, there are plans to recruit more teachers from 17% of low- and medium-income countries, to increase class time by 22% and to introduce remedy classes when schools are reopened, the report said. “It’s critical whether disadvantaged students can catch up as to how such classes are scheduled and targeted,” he added.