Many children may face long-term damage from losing a year of schooling, and this may translate to long-term economic damage, primarily to those from the lower classes. This is the central argument by education economist Nachum Blass in a recently published position paper attached to a report by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel.
“If we don’t improve the education system, we’ll lose an entire generation of children and our economic growth will be damaged for decades. We have to dramatically change how the education system works in order to limit the cumulative damage to students,” writes Blass.
He recommends a strategy that differs from the Education Ministry’s plan for reinstating schooling, and to adopt that strategy permanently even after the pandemic crisis passes. The ministry’s plan – dividing classes into two and hiring teachers without any teaching background, while spending 4.2 billion shekels on acquiring computers over the course of the year – was a mistake, he says. “The meaning of the ministry’s plan was the total loss of a school year for many children in grades 5 thorough 12, and increasing social gaps – at massive expense,” he says.
“Given the conditions in Israel, in terms of infrastructure and economic and educational capabilities, remote learning could be a partial solution, maybe not even a bad one, for children from well-off sectors. However, it’s a problematic and maybe even a horrible solution for many children from weaker backgrounds.
“While local authorities, principals and teachers were successful at adapting local solutions, the Education Ministry’s success in terms of giving precise instructions and immediate assistance to schools was limited at best,” states Blass. “The ministry’s main failure was not preparing a system for long-term education during a crisis that led to schools closing. The system wasn’t prepared to make long-distance learning an integral part of the education process... very little was done to ensure that children from weaker backgrounds had the equipment for remote learning. The results of this failure will be felt in the education system in the near future as well.”
Blass makes two suggestions as to how to renew schooling: Students learning in shifts, one group in the morning and the other in the afternoon; or permanently reducing class sizes. The second suggestion is much more efficient and should be implemented in any case, he says.
He recommends reducing class sizes by rearranging the responsibilities of existing teaching staff and by converting existing space at schools into classrooms, without significant hiring of new teachers.
“The crisis created an opportunity for significant change that could significantly improve how the system works,” he says.
Read the entire article at Haaretz.