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How Much of Learning Would Be Lost This Coming School Year

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Basic education in both US and the Philippines this year will be largely online. I have heard from several experts on online education that takes at least a year just to develop an online course. Certainly, what we will see in a few weeks is not really online learning but just an emergency type of instructional continuity. There is simply not enough time to build online courses and provide the necessary training to instructors. With this in mind, the learning loss this academic year in elementary, middle and high schools can be significant and researchers at McKinsey & Company have recently warned, "These effects - learning loss and higher dropout rates - are not likely to be temporary shocks easily erased in the next academic year."


So even with average remote learning, which is probably already a high bar for schools to reach since there are just barely weeks to prepare, a student stands to lose 3-4 months of learning. In the Philippines, remote learning faces huge chal…

Inequity in COVID-19 School Closures

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As schools decide to hold virtual classes, it is important to look at what has transpired back in Spring. Online learning as it happens inside a child's home is sensitive to the resources a household can provide. Obviously, there is access to technology. Likewise, parents are now a much bigger factor in their child's education. There are, of course, differences in what parents are able to do to assist in their children's education on top of the technological demands of online learning. How various households have accessed the internet during last Spring when COVID-19 abruptly moved classrooms online offers a glimpse of the inequity schools should anticipate this coming Fall. The differences based on socio-economic status is significant as shown by a recent working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research. Children from wealthier households are clearly provided more resources. 



The study looks at search engine results during the time COVID-19 closed schools in Spr…

We Must Act Collectively

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With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise in the US and other countries, it becomes apparent that non-pharmaceutical interventions work only if these are all observed simultaneously. Most schools are currently planning to hold virtual classes only. This intervention has been recently associated with a 62% reduction in COVID-19 incidence rate and a 58% reduction in the number of COVID-19 related deaths. These reductions are clearly substantial, but these are obviously associated with effects from other interventions. Students are asked to sacrifice significantly this coming Fall with schools remaining closed for face-to-face instruction. It is a travesty if schools remain closed while bars remain open during this time. The reopening of schools hinges on the current incidence of COVID-19 in the community. Schools remain virtual so that community transmission is avoided. It is only fair that the community practices the other necessary interventions so that there is hope that students would …

Choice Comes with Responsibility

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Almost half of the children in Fairfax county chose 2 days per week of face-to-face classes. With this choice, schools then have the responsibility to keep everyone (students, teachers and staff) safe while on campus. Although this translates only to about 25 percent occupancy, the risks are thought to be unacceptable. Now that the choice of going one hundred percent virtual has been made, this decision also comes with responsibility. That responsibility, of course, is primarily the education of our children in a virtual environment. And this is challenging. As research has shown, distance learning is a lot more inefficient than face-to-face learning. In a study involving an introductory physiology class, students perform poorly in exams that require comprehension when the content is delivered online. The scores are markedly lower for students in distance learning. 

In the above, two types of exams are used. MQ corresponds to questions that only require memory while CQ requires compreh…

"Things Are Different Now"

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We are staying online. Georgetown University is. And so are my children who are currently enrolled in Fairfax County public schools. It is therefore clear now what we need to plan for this coming Fall. This is not the first time, however, since we already had a taste of distance learning last Spring when COVID-19 closed schools abruptly. This time, however, we have the opportunity to prepare. And at Georgetown, we are asked to think about the new modality of teaching and learning. And since we had some experience last Spring, we are given the opportunity to look back and reflect on what our students have to say. Our students want flexibility without sacrificing academic rigor. The students also want transparency and communication, not a one-way thing, but one that includes them as active participants. And since our lectures or meetings are on Zoom, we are also reminded of this new condition, the "Zoom fatigue". There are several reasons why staring at a screen for some time …

Children and COVID-19: The Difference Between Mainstream Media and Primary Literature

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Browsing through Facebook, I saw a post that links to an article in Axios. The post has this clear conclusion:  Middle and high schoolers can spread coronavirus as effectively as adults. That, however, is not what the cited literature or study is saying.


The following table summarizes the data from the primary literature cited by Axios

The data above come from contact tracing. Children have very limited contacts presumably because of school closures. On the other hand, adults (20 years or older) have plenty of contacts. Measuring the rate of infection obviously depends on how many contacts (the denominator in %positive). The higher the number of contacts, the infection rate will appear lower. Of course, the higher number of contacts testing positive leads to a higher infection rate. The lower number of contacts from individuals 10-19 years old becomes more obvious with the following table (taken from the same paper):


With the disparity in the number of contacts traced for the age group…

Pandemic May Lead to the Rise of Shadow Education in the US

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With most schools preparing for one hundred percent virtual classes this coming Fall, parents may begin looking for alternatives. Before the pandemic, students in the United States have already been participating in private supplementary education. COVID-19 may therefore catalyze a rise in this shadow educational system which may exacerbate existing gaps in education. A study that looks at about 18,000 ninth grade students back in 2009 already shows a significant number of students (about 18 percent) participating in out-of-school programs. With parents anxious about their children being left behind, these numbers are likely to increase. The study finds that Blacks and Hispanics attend these private programs for "catching up" while Asians generally "aim to get ahead". 


Whenever a new market arises, of course, there are opportunities. A Martial arts school in Fairfax county, for example, tries to respond to this expected demand.


As educators, we must be vigilant with …