Webinar Roundup – ‘April 22 Q & A with Annie Kidder’
On April 22, Annie Kidder, Executive Director – People for Education, took questions on education in a pandemic. We’ve prepared a roundup for you with key takeaways and additional resources that will build out the topics important to our attendees. Thanks to all who joined and asked probing and insightful questions! It created a robust dialogue on education in the pandemic.
1. There is a concern that missed school because of the pandemic might result in students losing the knowledge and skills they have developed this school year. What should we be focusing on to ensure young people don’t fall behind?
The first thing we need to think about is not having too narrow a definition of learning. Learning has many different meanings. Learning is not necessarily doing work at home only related to the 3 R’s– reading, writing, and math. Learning can look like cooking together, having a conversation about what is going on in the world right now, drawing a picture, listening to music, and even watching videos. When students engage in these activities, they are doing things like thinking critically and creatively, gathering a better understanding of themselves and society, and collaborating with others. These foundational skills and competencies are a vital part of learning and examples of what we at People for Education call ‘The New Basics.’
Hopefully this broader definition helps us to realize how important the learning is that students are doing all day every day while they’re at home, and to focus less on making parents feel responsible for finding ways to get their children to sit-down and do homework. If we recognize learning in this broad way, and understand that kids are using their brains all the time, then I question the idea of falling behind.
Annie Kidder discusses the opportunity during COVID-19, to learn more about the possibilities and challenges of on-line learning. A blog article by Young Zhao shares more about the potential and limitations of on-line learning.
2. Recently, we have seen many people speak to issues of equity in education – particularly around students’ access to the required technology and infrastructure needed to engage in remote online learning. What kinds of things do we need to be doing to ensure equity for all students?
This situation has exposed the fundamental inequities that still exist in our country. As schools have closed, we’ve learned it’s not just about whether people have laptops and wi-fi. It’s much more about the differences in families’ capacities.
But, it’s not that the pandemic suddenly created inequities. The value of schools is that they are places where it should be possible – though, it’s not necessarily totally true yet – that every child has a fairly equal chance for success. But we know from evidence that things like socioeconomic status, race, and neighbourhood can be a predictor of how students are going to do at school, and despite ongoing attention in education to “moving the equity needle” there is not equity for all students.
The equity needle is typically measured using reading, writing and math scores. But at People for Education we think we have actually been focused on moving the wrong needle. To build equity, we could instead be thinking about how we ensure that all kids are able to develop a wide range of skills and competencies that will support them throughout their lives to thrive in our rapidly changing world.
We’ve also started to think about our right to education in Canada and what it really means to have a right to a quality education. We think that there is a possibility that if we look at the system from a rights-based perspective, we will may be able to do more to address the inequities that exist in the system right now.
3. What could or should be the lasting changes to our education system after COVID-19?
I hope that there are changes. It is important that we are learning from this.
- Supporting families more effectively: One of the things this has shown us is how incredibly different and how incredibly important families are. It has also exposed something that we knew but wasn’t right in our face – that families need a lot of different kinds of supports and that families have a lot of different kinds of capacities – we have to understand what we can do to help, and what we can do that’s not just adding more pressure on parents and families. We need to try to figure out from a systems point of view and a structural point of view – looking at health, looking at social services, recreational services, and all different kinds of family supports – what kind of infrastructure is needed to make sure that we’re making the structural changes that families need.
- Valuing our public education systems: I think one of my hopes is that governments across the country and around the world who have been reducing funding to education and thinking “maybe we can we do more with less”, have been reminded that our education systems are incredibly important to all of us, from early childhood all the way up to grade 12 and beyond into post-secondary. This may be a time that governments who were going to cut a lot of funding decide that maybe this is not the time to be doing this, making sure that going back in the fall, all the programs, all the supports are there in schools.
- Learning: We need to be – after this is over, or even right now – surveying students, parents, educators, administrators in order to get information from different groups that can help us learn. I hope that after this, we think beyond the data on whether reading, writing and math scores went up or down because that is not a good way of measuring the health or strength of an education system. It will be important to know things like whether or not students felt supported, whether or not teachers felt they had enough knowledge, training or professional development to actually deliver classes online, where teachers were able to access students individually – that’s the kind of data that we need in order to move forward
Annie Kidder speaks about how we bounce forward and not back as an education system, coming from the learnings during COVID-19.
4. Do our provinces and territories have different priorities and plans as it relates to education during the pandemic?
People for Education looked at all of the different provinces and territories to see what their learning expectations were, what their focus was when they closed schools, and whether or not students were receiving grades. We wanted to understand more about the successes, challenges and evolution of each region’s response. This information will be kept up to date on our Canada-wide Education during COVID-19 Tracker.