Faced with the pandemic in which we find ourselves on a global scale, from the sociology of education we have coordinated an exploratory study that has just been published and which pays special attention to the voice of educational and social agents.
It is about knowing how they are perceiving and experiencing, mainly students and families, an unprecedented phenomenon that generates as many concerns as questions: something that started out as exceptional and about what is now said to give way to a “new normal”, without know very well what this term points to.
What is certain is that this pandemic will mark a before and after in the field of education and opens scenarios of increasing uncertainty.
The field work for this first radiography has been carried out through twenty interviews. Thus, we have made a journey from the first cycle of Early Childhood Education (0-3 years) to university to highlight the diversity of situations that our educational system is going through in the process of adapting face-to-face tasks to virtual ones.
The profile of interviewees is very varied: we have collected testimonies from women and men, from urban and rural areas, from different parts of the peninsula and from the islands.
In the case of students , the people interviewed are from ESO and Bachillerato. In the case of families , they are mothers and fathers who speak, either individually, or as members of parents’ associations, as well as teachers and union representatives who also respond from their role as mothers and fathers.
A wake-up call on inequality
The balance leads us to make a wake-up call on educational and social inequality and on the consequences that this crisis is having and will have on the intensification of inequalities.
This pandemic makes of glass and magnifying glass: it reflects and amplifies our limits and our response to them.
The conclusions indicate that, once again, the big losers of this pandemic are the socially vulnerable groups and that they are further away from a school culture that is now becoming a culture of the digital age.
A transversal and common axis to all the testimonies is the importance of the public, in times of need, within the framework of markedly neo-liberal policies.
As for the students, the question arises if, in a moment as difficult as this, it makes sense to continue sending “exaggerated amounts of homework” (student, 4th ESO, Cuenca) instead of taking advantage of the situation to promote meaningful learning for life on issues related to the pandemic, society, people, citizenship, care and digital.
“It is not the right method”
The debate has been placed on a sensation of curricular loss, when it could be a time to learn and grow “in another way”. This is illustrated by one of the students:
“I do not find out anything … In many subjects they send us to copy without really knowing the objective of this task, and I think it is not the most appropriate method.”
1st Baccalaureate student .
“That they discover the value of being with family”
Also one of the teachers states:
“During this time of confinement, more emphasis should be placed on discovering how valuable it is to be with family, developing autonomy, learning to do tasks that are often done by their parents, and thus giving them more time to be together. This is also learning and, above all, being ”.
Infant Teacher 0-3 .
“This is going to have an impact on learning.”
Another representative of the teaching staff agrees:
“This situation is going to have an impact on learning. Depending on how we treat it, this impact will be either beneficial or detrimental. Not so much at the content level as at the emotional level ”.
Infant Teacher 0-3.
“Working at a distance with the needs students”
On the other hand, from the field of management, attention is drawn to students with special needs:
“A special section should also be made for students with educational support needs. With these creatures it is more difficult to work at a distance, for them it is essential to have a reference that motivates and accompanies them in the learning process ”.
CEIP Director .
“The teachers are not present”
For their part, families point out that the greatest difficulty they find at the moment is the lack of access or ICT skills, as well as the supply of teaching tasks.
“Most families have tried to contribute to normality by coordinating and contacting teachers. It must be understood that it has been a very complex and alarming situation for everyone. From one day to the next the way of teaching changes, the teachers are no longer present, there are their recommendations, the family becomes the one who takes charge of the process. ”
CEIP Director .
“It is difficult to telework with children at home”
Added to this is the debate, from a feminist perspective, on the global workload:
“Many women have lost their chances of reconciling work and family life. For those who are lucky to telework, it is being very difficult to do it with children at home. Those who are forced to go out to do their work do not have support networks either. ”
Head of the FEsp-UGT union .
“You could buy computers instead of books”
It will be necessary to monitor the possible imbalances that this causes in the sexual division of labor, if a new possibility has been opened for co-responsibility or gender gaps have increased. Even, some adaptation key to the digital culture is offered:
“With the money that families spend on textbooks, they could buy laptops without problems and it would not be difficult for there to be digital content for all levels… However, this is not done in the interest of publishers. As there is also the book bonus, families are not aware of the money that the administration disburses. ”
These voices are sending signals that sociology takes into account to prepare a diagnosis and inform responsible decision making. The social sciences have a fundamental role in providing systematic images of reality, obtained rigorously, to produce reliable knowledge at the service of the common good of society.
Our balance could not be more positive, given the commitment with which the various educational agents are knowing how to face this difficult situation that the pandemic has opened for us.
But it also leads us to make a wake-up call on educational and social inequality and on the consequences that this crisis is having and will have from the transversal perspective of inequality.
Author Bios: Sea Venegas is a Full Professor of the Department of Sociology of the University of Granada at the University of Granada and José Beltrán Llavador is a Professor of Sociology of Education at the Universitat de València