quotes Compensating for academic loss in a post-pandemic world

27 July 2021
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Updated 27 July 2021

Compensating for academic loss in a post-pandemic world

Almost all countries around the world closed their schools during the pandemic. However, some managed to keep them open and safe by using special measures, such as social distancing and hygiene practices, to keep the virus at bay.
The Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently published a report that focused on the impact of school closures on student performance.
The comparative data underlying this report, a joint effort from UNESCO, UNICEF and the World Bank guided by the OECD, were collected and processed based on special surveys to trace changes during the pandemic. Many strategies and policies were established during the pandemic to fight the spread of the virus, although they were not governed by educational objectives but by the health structure and public policy goals of each country.
Education authorities tried to maintain interaction between students and schools using several methods, such as distance education through online platforms. But this system put a lot of pressure on teachers, as many needed assistance and training on e-learning methods and skills.
Moreover, the administration of national exams and assessments were also disrupted. Schools had to choose different types of assessments to evaluate students.
The OECD survey showed consistent patterns among many countries. Online platforms were mainly used at the secondary level, while mobile phones, TV education channels, and other distance learning techniques were more common at the primary level.
Given the learning losses, some people might think that repeating the school year may compensate.
However, the OECD analysis of grade repetition indicated that just repeating the school year would not compensate for any learning losses but overburden people with extra expenses.
One of the solutions presented as a remedy was individualized learning, where teachers put in extra effort and concentrate on customized teaching for low-achieving and weak students to make up for the loss. Other remedies might include small class size, teacher-student ratio, specific customized learning plans, and self-paced learning.

To compensate for the time loss, hybrid and technology-supported learning have been used in many countries as the new routine post-pandemic.

Dr. May Alobaidy

According to the OECD, there is no estimate for the loss of learning, the lack of development of cognitive skills, or the consequences for the socio-emotional development of students, which includes the psychological impact owing to the lack of interaction with classmates and the strain on parents during lockdowns, since there are no supporting studies. The impact of learning losses will only be seen in the long-term, years from now.
To compensate for the time loss, hybrid and technology-supported learning have been used in many countries as the new routine post-pandemic.
However, according to the OECD, schools are still not ready due to a lack of computers, IT support, and training. Remote and hybrid learning depends not just on individual access to computers, but on powerful learning online platforms and teachers’ ability to incorporate their digital and pedagogical skills.
To review the efficacy of the methods implemented, several education authorities, such as in Finland, performed studies where data was collected involving household surveys, student assessments, and teacher assessments.
Likewise, Poland monitored the number of platform users and the popularity and use of educational content.
The World Bank recommends that countries need to measure learning in at least two subjects to capture several aspects of learning, in at least two grades to diagnose learning limitations at different stages of schooling, and a minimum of two planned rounds of data collection over five years to help set in the practice of using learning data into educational policies.
Again, the most important issue here is how we can make our education systems worldwide more robust, resilient, and subtle to prepare for any inevitable future calamity.

• Dr. May Alobaidy is a strategic expert. She is the first Saudi woman to be appointed as an adviser to a minister. She has worked as a senior adviser to four ministers, in addition to her role as CEO of the Strategic and International Partnerships and Initiatives Center. Twitter: @mayalobaidy