Limits on learning

Learners of all ages will be keen to get back to a Covid alert level which allows face-to-face teaching as a matter of course rather than the limited opportunity allowed under Level 3.

While some families may embrace the chance to spend more time with their children and become more closely involved with their schooling, for others it is an extra stress they could do without.

Studying from home, while not ideal, is likely to be much easier in a household where there is plenty of room, adequate food, access to devices and the internet, and where parents are not worn out trying to juggle work and childcare for school age and younger children.

It will be much less comfortable in a family where there may be one cellphone with limited data through which several pupils are trying to remain in contact with their teachers.

While the education sector has generally been better prepared for lockdown this time round, some of the problems identified last time have not disappeared.

The digital divide remains. Schools will have been providing printed materials for those pupils unable to join online classes, but those children may have less opportunity for contact with their teachers.

There has been a mixed reception from pupils to the fortnight’s delaying of this year’s National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) exams which will push the end of the tests to December 14.

Some pupils would have preferred the original timetable and the addition of learning recognition credits which were used last year to top up the credits pupils had achieved.

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority has not ruled out using learning recognition credits or even changing the thresholds for university entrance, but these decisions will depend on how long schools remain in Alert Levels 3 and 4.

In recent years there have been concerns about the emphasis on the constant assessment-go-round in our secondary schools; whether this is placing too much pressure on some pupils and if it is necessarily conducive to true learning.

Maybe this is a time for schools (and parents) to reflect on the desirability of that emphasis.

One impact of the lockdown last year was that anxiety affected attendance once alert levels lowered, and not just in Auckland. The Education Review Office (ERO) report on the impact of last year’s lockdown said if this issue was not addressed a lot more of what it called disengaged pupils would be leaving school early or not continuing with education after they left school.

Reassuring parents that it is safe for their children to return to school will be required. The ERO report found last year’s lockdowns had resulted in stronger connections between schools, parents and whanau and suggested there would be an opportunity for building on these connections to ensure pupils remained engaged with school.

It will be some time before we will know the impact of this year’s lockdown on learning, and it will be a matter of schools systematically identifying where the gaps are and working out how to best address them.

And another thing

THE spat over whether Parliament should have been sitting under Alert Level 4 has not been an edifying spectacle.

Those familiar with the daily oral questions in the House with its theatrical posturing, petty point scoring and politicking may have been surprised this was somehow considered to be the last bastion of democracy by the National and Act parties.

Despite the low numbers of members of Parliament involved in the pared-down daily sittings, we are not sure this was setting a good example or the best option.

It is a pity the Government appears to have ruled out reinstating something similar to last year’s Epidemic Response Committee which was informative and where egos did not overwhelm.


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