Distance learning for all children and young people in the country begins this Monday. I am a 1st cycle teacher and I understand the challenge faced by students, teachers and parents. I wish you good luck.
Unfortunately, this year the ministry did not prepare adequately for what was known to be atypical: there are still no computers or no internet for all pupils in need and there was insufficient training for teachers. The educational communities must again muster the courage and invent solutions. We must be able to prevent situations such as the increase in school failure and the “separation” of students and families from school as noted in previous detention.
In Lisbon we are trying to help educational communities prepare for distance learning. We have already distributed more than 3,000 computers and distribute more than 1900 meals a day to children and young people in need. This is a significant increase compared to the first delivery.
Nothing can replace teaching in the lesson-learning process. The pandemic did not allow personal education during the first wave, and an increase in social inequalities and school failure is expected in this second detention. The distance learning that is coming back now can make these problems worse, but I believe there are three tools that should be used to help mitigate them.
Firstly, it is necessary that all children and young people who are threatened with learning despite the educational offer can go to school.
Schools will operate in different ways: non-personal education is the rule, but the children of frontline professionals and children and young people with special health needs continue to attend school. In several cases, the law even provides for face-to-face training to be expanded, but without making it operational. Teachers and school authorities are already doing this work, child to child, young to young. But I believe it is possible to do more.
1. An emergency solution is needed for those unable to take distance learning even if students need to be included in the classroom. There are children and adolescents who are not (formally) at risk, but whose families cannot properly monitor them, either because they live in overcrowded houses or because they cannot help them study (for various reasons). In Lisbon we can accept students in extreme situations, thus ensuring the best safety conditions. It is also important that the Child and Youth Protection Commissions (CPCJ) identify drop-out situations and do the vital work with families and schools so that these students are not left to their own devices.
2. The best way to keep schools safe is to test, test, test. In September I suggested testing the entire educational community and that proposal was approved by the Lisbon City Council. Now it is important that this testing guideline is implemented: All students, teachers and non-teaching staff in schools who teach on-site must be tested so that we can identify and isolate positive cases and thus break chains of contagion.
3. The ministry must now prepare to make up for lost time. We must assume that the disturbing effects of these atypical school years will not miraculously disappear in the near future. The ministry now needs to develop a plan to mitigate and restore learning. In particular, highlighting students who have been most disadvantaged, mobilizing practices and resources already known to be more effective, enabling reduction in the number of students per class, strengthening school libraries and educational resource centers, establishing more specialized educational support and always deemed appropriate Establish solid tutoring programs.
Rather than overly engaging in assessment and testing, we must prioritize teaching and effective learning for every student. The assessment should help improve learning and identify areas and content that have not been adequately worked on or that have not resulted in learning, correcting processes and improving teaching practices.
Our commitment to our children and young people must be absolute. Nobody can be left behind.
The author writes according to the new orthographic convention