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What happened to education during pandemics?

Oct 18, 2022
Escrito por: Rector, Universidad Pedagógica Nacional
What happened to education during pandemics?

Since more than a year it has been common saying that pandemic left important consequences regarding learnings, performance, and academic achievement of the students. But we prefer to talk about the impact on training processes. Firstly, because education is a concept that pedagogy has assumed to talk about what educational task means regarding its complexity beyond the school itself. Learning, achievement, or performance are categories addressed to measurable results, which do not account for such complexity and, therefore, the process itself.

Alejandro Gaviria, Minister of Education, has recently said that one of the priorities of his portfolio is closing the learning gaps because of the pandemic. We welcome such a goal since it is a pedagogical issue that must be urgently dealt with. But indicators measuring so-called learning fall short to assess what is really happening with educational processes. That is why we consider critical to identify better the issue and thus seek more relevant alternatives.

A latest study (2021), the journal Borradores de Economía of Banco de la República (No. 1179) pointed out that between 2019 and 2020 the percentage of students who missed their grades increased (primary 6.2 percent; secondary 11.3 percent, and high-school education 7.9 percent), being more impacted students of departments around periphery of the country, rural areas, and official schools. This means an increase of gaps compared to private schools, cities, and departments in the heart of the country.

Such a gap increase is also worrisome as comparing results of Pruebas Saber in 2019 and 2021. The Economics of Education Laboratory of Universidad Javeriana points out that considering those results the academic performance gap between public and private schools increased seven points; students in urban and rural areas went up from 24.1 to 26 points. At the same time, they point out that percentage of students who work increased 16 percent with a higher percentage of students in public schools than private schools.

The reason for increase of these gaps is ascribed to schools and teachers, usually on the basis that appropriate methodologies were not adopted, or the ill-prepared teachers are those in schools where lowest results are found. ECLAC-UNESCO Covid-19 Report (2020), mostly states that least-qualified teachers are in poorest regions, i.e., signifying they should be trained; some studies also point out that a lack of internet and accessing to virtual technologies as well as intransigence ways of performance assessment affected the so-called academic performance.

Although a part may be true, we believe this look is highly restrictive and therefore it does not guide us as we look for options to close gaps in the Colombian education system, which are undoubtedly very deep. What happened during pandemic was the poorest students were left without the only chance they must increase their cultural wealth and being trained considering the broadest sense of the word. Such an opportunity for those children and young people is found exclusively at school. The higher the socioeconomic level, the more chances families are having to influence upon an educational process. The poorest had to go out to work or stayed at home or in the street without an open educational offer; others were attending academic, sports, artistic and cultural pursuits with private tutors, firstly virtually and then mixed or face-to-face modes. That´s a significant departure and points out a gap that performance-or-learning indicators really cannot measure.

Then a choice is the state should take care of the educational offer that poorest families may not provide themselves. Minister Alejandro Gaviria declared the solution when he said that among his priorities will also be supplementing the so-called Extended Day in addition to improving pedagogical chances to recover lost options, besides training teachers, and increasing internet connectivity based on a provision of robust computer-generated programs.

Really, there is a need to bring a suitable number of chances to areas suffering greater socioeconomic deprivation, so students may use creatively out-of-school time, hopefully in conjunction with pedagogical projects that schools themselves are guiding. Sports, music, dance, targeted entertainment, handicraft and language courses, stories and poetry writing and reading, cinema, adventure games, astronomy, mathematics, and robotics clubs, in short, all of these are educational choices that state must deal with if we are to overcome shortcomings of the students. This is a very felt need even before the pandemic.

In that way, we can overcome such a judgment teachers and official schools as they hold them accountable for learning outcomes. This is not the main problem: although there is much to improve in conventional schooling, pedagogically speaking, really educational policies should be concerned to meet training requirements that beyond the school guarantee new generations will increase their cultural wealth in every aspect of their lives, taking into account of course the specificities of all the ethnic peoples who inhabit our country; moreover learning from many of those peoples to comprehensively address training of their children without worrying so much about performance results, or learning achievement.


Rector, Universidad Pedagógica Nacional


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