Covid-19 means all of Malta’s students are out of formal learning environments such as schools. Is anyone trying to understand and evaluate how this will affect the students’ educational development? Are we shaping plans on how to address the deficit they will face when they re-join formal education at a higher grade? Having had a chat with a number of mothers whose children attend various schools, it is obvious that parents are concerned.
While post-secondary and tertiary education has somewhat continued by going digital, primary and secondary education seems to be falling behind. The crisis has caught out our government and those schools who heavily depend on the Minister’s ‘guidance’. Our learning environments are not up to the digital transition. Digital education was all about laptops, tablets and interactive boards within a physical environment. Now for most it is downloading educational work to be done alone in a physical environment.
Educators doing the extra mile
Let’s be clear there are educators who have not stopped communicating with their students on digital learning platforms and who are still following their students’ education as best they can on these platforms. There are educators who have really gone the extra mile and have literally transformed their teaching methods and materials so that they can continue to care for their students’ education.
Yet, our students’ education should not depend on the will and digital ability of the individual educator. The main method of instruction offered by the government is the placing of education materials online. Educators are having to reinvent themselves without having a formal infrastructure or indeed a pedagogy for online education. If I were an educator I would feel lost and would have to do like those educators who have swapped to digital applications and make the most of what those apps provide. I would have to learn and adapt on a daily basis depending on how students reacted to the digital session.
Heroes in education
There are these educators and I think they are today our heroes in education, but even heroes need support and structures. Educators cannot be left alone to cope with the effects of the Covid-19 crisis on the education of their students. Often my teachers at school (and that is quite a while ago) used to say that what we miss in a year will probably not be attained later. Teaching heavily involves the following of curriculum and so this year’s curriculum is not next year’s curriculum. Teachers complain that there is hardly enough time to fulfil a year’s curriculum, let alone have enough time to fulfil two years in one academic year.
Learning cannot stop
While I appreciate that education is not only about curriculum and that we as parents must chip in more than ever to ensure that our children continue to develop into well educated citizens and worthy members of the community, we parents are often reminded that our subject skills are not quite up to it. Yet we, educators and parents, cannot afford to let down our children. Their education, their learning cannot stop despite this crisis.
Dr Therese Comodini Cachia is a Nationalist MP.