The coronavirus crisis affects 1,507 million students: How to face the tsunami?


According to UNESCO data , as of April 14, 2020, the coronavirus crisis has affected 1,507 million students in 192 countries who are enrolled in preschool, primary, secondary, high school, undergraduate and postgraduate studies. This impact represents more than 91.4% of the world student population. Especially serious is the greatest impact on girls , due to the consequences they may suffer.

Students who have seen the environment and place of learning vary, practically from one day to the next, along with their study habits and dynamics. To the abandonment of the central place of gathering of knowledge, the classroom, and the space of relation for the youngest, the patio or the like, the impossibility of carrying out other types of attached activities, be they sports or cultural, that generate value in your process of health habits and personal growth.

To these adverse and unexpected circumstances, there has been added coexistence at home with adults, who sometimes cannot be aware of their progress or even pay adequate attention to them, either because they also have to work or telework, either because they do not have the adequate knowledge to help their children.

Additionally, it is required and demands to watch over a distance that prevents the spread of the disease.

When learning is interrupted

Unesco also points out the negative consequences of the closure of schools, among which the following stand out: learning is interrupted; the feeding of children decreases to school being the place of normal daily nutritional intake; inequality is reflected in accessing digital education systems, and school drop-out rates increase.

In these circumstances and worldwide, our young people see added to the educational knowledge of subjects designed by each educational system, the maturity that comes from overcoming exceptional circumstances that influence their own survival.

Knowledge will no longer be acquired by “traditional methods”, but responses from “another world” have had to be activated, in many cases from scratch. Despite the creation and generation of a “parallel system”, which the educational community has been activating since the end of the last century, the paralysis in the classes has affected face-to-face and / or traditional education and training. Although it has not caused a complete suspension of teaching, it has affected its evolution.

The student has been affected by a parenthesis that causes uncertainty, a new way of learning that generates doubts, and by a system of evaluation of their knowledge that is not tested or proven with the same criteria as the usual and classic ones until now. .

The tensions of the educational system

The educational system has suffered a very short-term tension and has been challenged and questioned. Faced with centuries of permanent effort to increase the levels of knowledge of millions of human beings, the pandemic has emerged as a tenacious competitor that has demanded the best and in record time from the actors of the educational community.

The World Bank figures in 2018 educational spending as 4.5% of GDP worldwide, being on average 14.5% of the spending of the governments of each country. Therefore, a sector with a high weight in the economy and in society has been forced almost overnight to an extreme reconversion in its way of acting.

Education is a continuous process of learning, of gathering knowledge, attitudes and behaviors for which perseverance, tolerance of frustration, curiosity, resilience, energy and motivation are required.

Communication between people has undergone rapid progress since the end of the last century. The physical distance, which made it impossible to speak with others, was solved over a hundred years ago with the telephone. Currently, there is no longer physical distance: mobile phone, contact applications or voice and audio applications make it easier to be in permanent connection.

These elements have allowed the encounter between the “virtual world” and the learning systems. Thanks to various initiatives in the form of platforms, software and other types of resources, teacher-student interaction is facilitated, both synchronously and asynchronously.

A new world, unexplored methods

The responses worldwide have been diverse. UNESCO organized a videoconference in early March 2020 with representatives from more than 70 countries. The goal: to create a crisis group that encourages aid among the participants. Ministries of Education around the world have launched initiatives for online courses , television lessons, digital platforms with different services or educational television programs.

On the other hand, the European Commission has compiled the instruments available for educators , or information on various educational projects of different content and levels.

Teachers face an unexpected challenge. They have to guarantee massive learning with resources not used until now and evaluate knowledge under unexplored methods. There are resistances to these new methods from both perspectives, both educators and students. Education will be forced to adjust and have alternative plans that mitigate the incidence of situations as devastating as those suffered with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Author Bios: Pedro César Martínez Morán is Director of the Master in Human Resources at ICADE Business School at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas and Fernando Diez is Professor, Faculty of Psychology and Education at the University of Deusto