COVID-19 has created a global frenzy. What started out in a bustling seafood market in China has reached its feelers all the way across the continents, setting off national warning systems, selling out thousands of sanitary masks and putting businesses in a state of panic. But out of these countless problems, what is to become of classroom education is one that is most prominent at this time.
Worldwide, countries and their districts that have contained coronavirus patients have been receiving orders to close down schools and postpone returning dates for those still on winter break. After China closed multiple schools in the affected regions indefinitely, a growing number of countries are applying the rule as well. Thus, devastated– or relieved– students are turning to online classes to continue their learning at home while their country’s leaders and organizations rack their brains to ease the minds of hundreds of families.
China is broadcasting national learning curriculum-based lessons across the country, bringing children in front of their TVs armed with a pencil and their books. But that does not cut it for many. E-learning businesses are experiencing a major boom in sales and exposure, especially TAL education, which has announced its partnership with more than 300 public schools to provide free classes to students.
South Korea, the second largest carrier of the virus, has been forced to implement two successive postponements of the end of winter break. For compensation, parents have been offered subsidies for their unpaid leaves, and free online classes are being distributed by the Education Ministry. Many High Schools have decided to cut down summer break in accordance to this change, much to the dismay of their students.
Now the outbreak has been passed on to the US as well, and schools are struggling to figure out how to deal with it. Their focus on prevention increases the likelihood of possibly holding off on-campus classes, prompting school boards to organize e-learning programs. Miami-Dade County Public Schools announced that they have 200,000 devices readily in possession in case a student lacks the digital resources that are crucial in pursuing online education.
.@MiamiSup and @MDCPS district officials participate in a conference call with @GovRonDeSantis, @richardcorcoran, Surgeon General Rivkees and @PublicSchoolSup to discuss #coronavirus readiness and prevention efforts. #MDCPSWellness pic.twitter.com/yygPa5nsck
— Miami-Dade Schools (@MDCPS) March 4, 2020
This is an improvement from past predicaments similar to this situation. The development of technology and online learning programs are now rescuing students from the abject prospect of not being able to expand their horizons of knowledge, whether they like it or not. However, like many pressing last-minute matters, there are aspects of this solution that pose a number of problems.
There is the issue of whether a student is gifted with the privilege of owning a computer, laptop, or other device that opens them to the world of educational technology. Though schools like Miami-Dade are taking measures to reduce this problem, there is an extension of a significant number of children that are out of reach. And even with a digital device, those in families with working parents are left solitary at home, which is not ideal especially if they are young. Parents in Japan, where most businesses are straying from allowing employees to work from home while schools begin to shut down, expressed their concern in a New York Times article: “I also had a call from a single father who works at the Toyota factory with two children. He cannot take time off. He was wondering what to do next week,” says Nagoya lawyer Hajime Kawaguchi.
Especially in countries where arduous education encompasses the lives of those in grade school to college, like South Korea and China, seasonal holidays are golden– not for leisure, but for catching up on or going ahead of their learning curriculum. And avid students studying for major upcoming exams are evidently frustrated. High school students in China dedicate their educational careers to preparing for Gaokao, their National College Entrance Examination, that now looms over them in three months. The drawbacks posed by online education is already a great disadvantage, but less fortunate students without access to fast-enough wi-fi and technology will be clouded with worry.
Sometimes I find it hard to imagine what life would be like if I went back to school one month ago…
Chinese Gaokao is round the corner,but we students still stay at home.
— 尹舒颖 (@r9aHM82fYj9RDwc) March 5, 2020
As the virus just begins to balloon in the US, it is not easy to say that things will turn out better, or that schools will be readily armed, expectant of the turmoil to come. As the number one priority at the top of the list is always the safety and health of the students, their focus on prevention and efforts to spread awareness will likely continue for the best. But a brand new problem like this is hard to contain, and there is no telling whether the students’ academic lifestyles, which remain a fundamental part of their lives, will be infected by the virus too.
Image via kreatikar on Pixabay