The Case for School

Should you send your child back to school this school year or not?

As a parent, there are a number of factors that you need to consider. First in the list is the safety of your child in school. With Covid 19 lurking around, sending them to school for a physical meet up might be too high a risk to take at this time.

What about online learning? This is feasible. Although not as complete as being present in the classroom and engaging with classmates face-to-face, the teaching and learning process can still be effectively worked out virtually.

But this entails having the paraphernalia such as laptops or desktops and strong connectivity to the internet. This might be a bane to those who cannot afford to secure these equipment and those who are not within reach by internet signals.

Another option is the modular learning. To my mind, this is synonymous to homeschooling. The student will independently work out modules at home and do a regular submission of the same to his school.

Whatever the case, I believe the school year should not be cancelled as others propose. The Department of Education knows this too well, hence, it is creatively pursuing learning modalities that will answer the constraints brought by the pandemic.

Why should schools reopen again? Obviously for many reasons. Chief among them the development of cognitive and academic skills that our children need for their success.

Many claim, especially uninformed parents, that it will not hurt their children if they stop schooling for a year or two. They are wrong. It will hurt children significantly, especially those who belong to the lower income families.

School, or formal training for that matter, develops literacy. Literacy, in many forms (reading, writing, computer, financial, etc.), can only be achieved through formal training. Without structured learning, children can hardly learn the concepts, all the more have mastery over them.

Formal training increases IQ as well. When children learn the skills and problem-solving abilities in school, they are able to navigate competently the challenges besetting them in their environment, increasing their confidence and chances for a successful life.

Now, what if my child’s formal training is stopped for a while? Will it affect his development significantly? You bet.

There is a phenomenon cognitive scientists and educators refer to as “Summer Slide”.  Studies show that a significant loss in learning particularly in reading, math, and science is observed during the summer break.

Why is this so? Because the academic discipline and habit which make neural connections in the brain strong and sturdy are now loosened by inactivity and lack of structured mental exercise. A 2-month summer break, more or less, is long enough to shirk whatever brain connections formed during the school year if the vacation is not spent well for meaningful enrichment.

Summer slide is even more pronounced among the low-income families. Research shows that today, summer learning loss can be tied to economic status. During the school year, lower income children’s academic skills in Kindergarten through 4th grade improve at close to the same rate as those of their more advantaged peers. But over the summer, middle-and-upper income children’s skills continue to improve while lower income children’s do not.

And this effect is cumulative. Summer after summer, low income kids lose roughly two months’ worth of learned skills which accounts for a huge and significant learning gap over the course of the elementary school years.

And we are talking only about summer breaks here. How much more for a year or two?

If parents can make sure that they will compensate for the loss of school with something equally potent for the learning of their children, then it is alright to let them stop, in the name of physical safety.

But if all they can allow is play the whole time, without any structured time for brain exercises and discipline, expect a lag in their cognitive development, and many other aspects of their personality.

Let the schools open now. And do every creative way to continue formal training without unnecessarily putting children’s health at risk.