Marian Dancso: Socially excluded children are not participating in online instruction in the Czech Republic
Pupils attending first and second grade during 2020 should be required to repeat those grades, at least in those places that have long failed to implement any relevant distance education through video conferencing, consultations, or other means of facilitation. Surveys show that more than 10 000 children have not been involved in distance education at all this year and several thousand more have just been minimally involved.
What is crucial in this regard are socially excluded localities and areas with high degrees of unemployment where families simply do not have enough materials or technical equipment to implement online instruction. Just a small percentage of the families living on the edge of social exclusion are able to arrange an interactive connection for their children with instructors or their fellow pupils.
It is not just a lack of technical backup that plays a role here, but families' limited knowledge and experience with using modern means of communications and computer technologies. For many larger families, this kind of instruction is absolutely inaccessible.
I am of the opinion that for most children living in social exclusion, instruction has turned into just receiving and returning homework in the form of worksheets that very often end up not being completed because the pupils do not understand them. They are not finding any aid with understanding them within their families.
It is a generally known fact that the level of education of people living in excluded localities is quite basic, and therefore even a very simple homework task can pose an unsolvable problem not just for children, but also for their parents. This fact demonstrates how big of an influence pupils' family environments have on their education, an influence that is projected into the level of education they achieve and then into how they apply themselves on the labor market as adults.
For students in upper grades it is possible to curtail some of the curriculum or even leave it out entirely (I think nothing strange will happen if pupils are unable to describe Pascal's Law from memory), but not much can be left out of what is taught during first and second grade. A child will have difficulty learning to write if he or she cannot master the correct technique given the phase of motor development at that age, and the same applies to the art of using the alphabet, forming words, etc.
I am concerned that in circumstances where the reopening of the schools continues to be postponed, most pupils will experience significant pressure with the aim of catching up on the material they have missed; that lack may eventually be negatively reflected in assessments of their performance and will intensify what is already a big educational crisis in excluded localities. The differences among regions and the education levels of their populations continue to intensify, including at the level of primary education.
From this perspective, it is time to seriously consider the opportunity for children to repeat a grade, especially first and second grade in localities that did not manage to involve pupils in distance education in any relevant way, or perhaps instruction should be extended during the summer holidays. Even that, however, is far from an exhaustive solution to the problems associated with transitioning into distance education, just as the necessity has opened up both for discussions and for the implementation of the outputs of those discussions on how, in this society, to solidify our relationship with online forms of education and socioprofessional contacts in general in a sustainable, targeted way.
The author is an educator teaching at the Janov Primary School, a local assembly member in the town of Lom for the OMMO party ("Citizens for the town, the town for citizens"), and a Romani community member.
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