The weight of the pandemic still present in schools

The weight of the pandemic still present in schools


The weight of the pandemic is still very present on a daily basis in schools, where learning delays are significant and behavioral difficulties are on the rise.

Even if the pandemic now seems behind us, the repercussions of the health crisis will be felt for a long time to come. 

School closures and online teaching have hurt learning while restrictions on extracurricular activities have taken a toll on academic motivation. 

The gap is widening

Many teachers and experts make the same observation: it is the most vulnerable students who have suffered first, which has accentuated educational inequalities. 

“The gap has widened between strong students and weak students,” says Nancy Granger, professor at the University of Sherbrooke.

Various data recently made public show that student results have experienced widespread declines, especially in reading in grade four and in writing at the end of high school.

Student engagement with school has also taken a hit, adds Ms. Granger. “Teachers report a lot that students are less motivated and engaged. Teachers hear a lot: “Why would I force myself?”, “How will this help me?” »

The pandemic has also undermined students' confidence in their ability to succeed, adds Frédéric Guay, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Motivation, Perseverance and Academic Success at Laval University.

According to a survey carried out in secondary schools in the Quebec region, young people feel much less competent in this area.

Students' delays in learning and their lack of motivation have also made teachers' daily lives more difficult, which has contributed to creating a vicious circle due to the pandemic. 

“The pandemic has accelerated the issue. The teams find the work more difficult, people get exhausted, and that feeds departures among teachers, ”explains Mélanie Paré, professor at the Faculty of Education at the University of Montreal. 

Over the past three years, at least 4,000 teachers have resigned, reported Le Journal recently.

Behavioural difficulties

The pandemic has also exacerbated anxiety and mental health problems among young people, which has repercussions at school, adds Ms. Paré.

Both in elementary and n high school, several studies have also shown an increase in behavioral problems in class on the part of students, who are more likely to show aggression or opposition.

Data from the school network also indicate that acts of violence have increased considerably in several school service centres, while the number of teachers and educators who have been compensated after being victims of violence at school has also increased. 

Digital divide between public and private

The pandemic has accelerated the digital shift in schools, which has however run out of steam with the return to normal, so that the inequalities between the public and the private sector in this area are still very real, says an expert. /p>

The successive confinements and numerous class closures that have been part of the daily life of thousands of students during the first year of the pandemic have forced teachers to familiarize themselves with online teaching and the many resources digital education in an emergency context, with the means at hand.

In this quite exceptional context, “all educational settings have developed digital skills like never before,” underlines Simon Collin, professor specializing in the integration of digital technology in education at UQAM.

“It wasn't necessarily a choice,” he recalls. It was rather an imperative, it was a hasty experience that allowed the development of skills in a massive way.

Three years later, however, some of these skills have been lost with the return to normalcy, he says. 

“I don't think you can say that the skills developed during the pandemic at the digital level are automatically transferable when returning to the classroom.

Even though Quebec granted $150 million at the start of the pandemic to equip public schools with at least 200,000 tablets and laptops, digital devices in the classroom often have to be shared between groups of students. students, which limits the use that teachers can make of them.

Inequalities that persist

Massive investment in devices has made it possible to accelerating the digital shift, but public schools still lag well behind private ones. 

“Inequalities are also persistent,” says Collin.

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