Commentary: The COVID-19 slide and the digital divide
September 4, 2021 | 12:58
COVID-19 has forced schools in the Philippines to remain closed for the second consecutive school year. As face-to-face lessons are prohibited, students continue their learning through online courses and self-study modules.
However, many are concerned about the loss of learning and the potential long-term negative impact of prolonged school closures, unequal access to learning resources and the quality of self-study modules. .
According to the World Bank, “Evidence is emerging to show that school closures have resulted in real learning loss – a ‘COVID slide’.
The COVID slide refers to the loss of learning or reversals of academic progress brought on by the disruptions to the education system induced by the pandemic. Loss of learning is often due to prolonged gaps in a student’s education; COVID-19 has amplified this loss and its potential impact at the national level.
In fact, according to a study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), current learning losses, if left unaddressed, will have a lasting economic impact on both the current cohort of students and over the nation.
According to the study, “Although the precise learning losses are not yet known, existing research suggests that students in Grades 1 to 12 affected by closures could expect an income 3% lower than the average. during their entire life. For nations, the weaker long-term growth associated with such losses could result in an average annual GDP decline of 1.5% for the rest of the century. ”
The study also indicated that the economic losses will be felt more deeply by disadvantaged students. “There is strong evidence that students whose families are less able to support out-of-school learning will experience greater learning losses than their more advantaged peers, which in turn translates into greater lifetime income losses. “
These projections should worry us here in the Philippines.
The Philippines is one of the few countries in the world where schools have remained closed since 2020. Other countries with more effective responses to the pandemic have been able to reopen schools, even temporarily, over the past year. This means that as other countries grapple with learning loss through classroom learning, Filipino educators and students face the added challenge of preventing COVID from slipping exclusively online or through the Internet. self-study.
UNICEF says much the same thing – that the Philippines is the only country in the region that has kept its schools closed since the pandemic struck in 2020. It warns that the loss of learning due to the prolonged school closures could have a long-term effect on children, especially on their “opportunities in higher education, to access better jobs and to be competitive in a global economy”.
The second reason we should be concerned about the COVID slide is that it disproportionately affects disadvantaged students. The Philippines’ socio-economic inequality magnifies the learning loss so that a prolonged COVID slide could further widen the gap between the haves and have-nots.
According to the ASEAN Council of Trade Unions, the Philippines has the highest rate of economic and social inequality in Southeast Asia. When it comes to online learning, a key indicator to watch out for is the Internet access gap or the digital divide. More than ever, learning is directly affected by the accessibility and reliability of Internet access, educational applications and online learning materials.
Like the pandemic that led to it, the fall of COVID in education requires a multi-stakeholder response to avoid its worst effects. An example of such much-needed multi-stakeholder initiatives is Globe Telecom’s recently launched GoLearn program with the Ministry of Education and Senator Joel Villanueva, Chairman of the Philippine Senate for Labor, Employment and Human Resource Development; and the Higher, Technical and Vocational Education Commissions.
GoLearn is a unified platform that promotes digital learning and fills digital gaps in education by providing access to connectivity solutions, learning platforms and materials. The initiative provides students from low-income households with access to education-focused data plans and provides training opportunities for teachers. It also seeks to create safer learning environments by promoting cybersecurity, responsible digital citizenship and mental well-being.
At the launch, Villanueva, a longtime digital learning advocate who has warned of the COVID slide from the start, cited the previously mentioned OECD study and expressed concern about the possible effects to long term learning loss.
Villanueva said multi-stakeholder interventions such as these are essential to ensure that the academic development of the current generation of students does not regress.
Indeed, as schools in the Philippines remain closed due to the ineffective government’s response to the pandemic, e-learning has been a lifeline for students in these uncertain times.
Digital platforms and services emerge as essential parts of the continued delivery of quality education and the arduous task of stopping learning loss. And, as the experience of the pandemic in the Philippines has shown, expanding access to these solutions will require collaboration between the public and private sectors.
The learning loss is a consequence of the current government’s focus on prolonged lockdowns as the primary policy response to the pandemic. With 26 million students expected from public schools set to return to class this month, it’s the education of an entire generation that is at stake.
Unless we do something now, the multifaceted effects of the COVID slide will be felt for generations to come – long after we finally eradicate this virus.