UNITED STATES—The coronavirus pandemic has turned the whole world upside down. Just like any other crisis, it took a huge toll on the most sensitive groups of people. As it turned out, the education system in the US was not ready for such a rapid change, so teachers, students, and parents alike found themselves in a very stressful situation. And while we’re still struggling to adapt to the new reality, there’s also another question that looms on the horizon: what’s next? Will the schools implement more technology into their educational processes? And should they?
Since the education crisis has affected almost every family, many politicians and experts have expressed their thoughts on the matter. One of them is Paul Reville, formerly the secretary of education for Massachusetts and currently a professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education. In his interview for the Harvard Gazette, he talked about the biggest issues that the crisis brought to light and, most importantly, what it is the future of the American education system.
According to Reville, the most critical problem the pandemic unearthed is the socioeconomic disparities between different students and households. While it’s not a new problem at all, it’s for the first time ever that it has become so obvious that it has drawn the attention of the media and policy-makers. It all started when the schools went into online mode and many students found themselves in a situation where they don’t have access to a computer, so they are inevitably left behind. More than that, many students have been affected in an even bigger manner: with the schools’ closing, they didn’t just lose access to technology, but also to regular meals, stable housing, or mental and physical health support.
Even though technology is the only thing that made it possible for the school year to go on, it also created a myriad of problems for many households. Families with several kids and just one device, teachers who struggle to hold the students’ attention online, parents who are forced to homeschool their offspring, and students who keep getting distracted by the very devices they are supposed to study with — technology created just as many problems as it solved. As usual, wealthier families will find the time, energy, and resources to take some pressure off their children in one way or another, which will widen the gap between them and their less privileged classmates.
As students aren’t able to attend schools and take in-person exams, educational institutions implement more self-studying and written assignments than usual. Students who don’t have access to technology or any other additional sources might not get a chance to work on the assignment, not to mention the psychological effect of not being able to keep up with the peers. Their classmates, on the other hand, may find themselves seeking more online education support, especially when it comes to complicated assignments such as research papers and essays. That’s why many essay writing companies like studybay.com may witness a surge of customers. While many people might consider services like Studybay cheating, in the end, the assignments will be done, and the students will be able to complete the school year without much stress.
But even if every student had access to a computer, is online education really a viable alternative to conventional schooling? If we eventually find a way to make online schooling truly effective and inclusive, will it make the kids smarter and happier than going to a regular school? Research shows it won’t. Currently, there’s no definite proof that digital technology has a positive influence on the effectiveness of education. Besides, when the schools reopen, educators will have to put even more effort into teaching their students the crucial soft skills that got lost in online schooling such as collaboration, dealing with prejudice and discrimination, coping with pressure, finding motivation, and becoming an adult in such turbulent times.
That’s why many experts suggest that what the children will need when the pandemic is over is much less technology and more face-to-face education. The support that teachers and counselors can give to the kids in schools cannot be provided online. And now it’s more important than ever. As Reville mentions in his interview for the Harvard Gazette, the current education crisis is just as much an individual issue as it is societal. Every student will be affected differently and will need a different approach. While the socioeconomic disparities always shaped the number of opportunities different students were exposed to, now the gap is wider than ever. That means we’re currently the furthest away from educational equality than we’ve been for a while, and it will take a lot of effort to change that.