Most public schools resumed face-to-face classes two months ago. Jamaica’s schools were first closed March 13th, 2020 because of Covid-19 and we saw the start of remote learning. Some students did well in this mode, but others suffered. Without devices for online school and limited access to WI-FI many fell behind their grade level or took longer to finish the syllabus. And younger children often couldn’t manage online learning at all. Regional exams were pushed back as the system struggled to cope with pandemic restrictions.
It soon became clear that students learn better in the classroom. This year the Ministry of Education and Youth moved quickly to get children back to school face-to-face schooling. Since then, experts agree learning has improved. Students can see their friends, rekindle friendships, socialize with others and are finding their school spirit again. They are getting the extra help they need and many now focus better in class, participate more, and have caught up with their studies. Even extra-curricular activities at school have gotten back on track. Athletes, musicians, dancers, and choirs are once again channeling their talents.
Parents, of course, are finally free! Liberated from these “likkle idlers” at home they are getting back to their domestic and career routines. Teachers are relieved since many of them are not especially big fans of online learning. They no longer have to tolerate children skipping online classes, showing up late or avoiding participating altogether.
The University of the West Indies was also operating in the online teaching space and is set to reopen face-to-face classes in September. There are some anxieties, however, since many current students have never even set foot on the campus The pandemic stole from them the campus life experience that experts agree students need for their growth as individuals, and for their professional development. The UWI wants students to navigate this aspect of their university life as soon as possible.
We should expect adjustment to this new normal to take time. While many elements of education are falling back into place, there are certain to be some hiccups. But we should rest assured that face to face classes will keep our students more stimulated and engaged than online teaching, enhance their critical thinking skills, and promote collaborative learning. Let’s hope students recover quickly enough so the past two years just seem like a bad dream.