Schools are closed but learning continues
The Minister of Education has announced that schools will remain closed until at least May 4th.
The Minister and the education community have a hard balancing act to perform right now. How can they provide answers that address all of the differing needs and capacities of families looking for guidance and direction during the COVID-19 pandemic?
We talked to the Minister of Education last week and he said, wonderfully honestly, “I am not the subject expert on education in a pandemic.” No one actually is, but at People for Education, we’re going to try to keep you up-to-date and provide a range of articles and papers you can read as well as regular updates on the evolving news in education. We invite you to follow @PeopleforEd on Twitter if you’re looking for key updates.
So what do the pandemic and the subsequent school closures mean for children and families?
PFE Tip #1: Manage expectations
We have been looking at the research and we think there are a number of things to keep in mind.
Firstly, it’s important to remember that parents are under strain right now – working from home, struggling with temporary lay-offs or permanent job loss, having to continue working in jobs that are stressful and that may put their own health at risk, and/or trying to deal with a range of mental and physical health needs for their families, both immediate and extended.
It is also of vital importance to remember that parents cannot substitute for the role of teacher and that home cannot be a replacement for schools which provide students with a community, a social life, and a range of adults who support their journey toward adulthood.
Maybe most important of all, we must remember that any new policies and resources developed to manage the current crisis need to be created with equity and a broad approach to learning in mind. Before we ask parents to do work that is normally done by a myriad of adults in a school, we must ask ourselves which parents are set up to do it, and we have to remember that not all parents have the capacity to homeschool their children, nor should they. What we can do is highlight areas that deserve attention as parents strive for some balance in their home schedules and aim to build and maintain positive mental health for themselves and their children.
PFE Tip #2 Find education resources that work for family
School boards across Ontario are racing to provide as many resources as possible, and the province’s Learn at Home website includes resources for parents and students.
School boards are also providing resources for families. For example, the Toronto District School Board has produced a list of learning resources and the Ottawa Catholic District School Board has created a website with updates, learning and well-being resources. Some boards have portals for students, parents, and teachers, and some are surveying families to understand more about their access to technology.
As we all know, learning comes in many forms. It’s not just about math worksheets or technology. So far, the Ministry has focused on providing resources to support reading, writing, math and science – including a 40 page!! guide to doing math with your child for parents with children in kindergarten to grade 6. The Minister has also announced that they are working on ways to ensure all families have access to technology.
While it is important that a wide range of resources are provided, it is also important that the current crisis doesn’t drive us backward into a narrowly defined view of education. Continuity of learning may be important, but learning comes in many forms, and there is widespread agreement that today’s young people need access to a new set of basics, well beyond the 3 R’s. At People for Education, we call these The New Basics. The New Basics include: Developing a sense of self and society, Learning to learn, Thinking creatively and critically, Communicating effectively, and Collaborating. Particularly during this time of families being together at home during an unprecedented worldwide crisis, the opportunity for parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren and siblings to develop these skills sets together are enormous and People for Education can attest to the benefits being evidence-based.
If you want to learn more, go to Education reading in a pandemic