Covid Controversy: Education During The Pandemic

An editorial on the controversy that has progressed over the last two years; is it more or less beneficial for students to learn in person?

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Image of students learning in person with masks (UCSF)

Cate Williams, Writer

One of the most unfortunate aspects of the COVID pandemic has been seeing governors and state education administrators attempt to find a way to maintain the student’s mental and physical health during the pandemic. Virtually every school in the nation closed in March 2020, replacing normalcy in-school with online programs that no one knew how to use. Only a small portion of the student body returned to fully opened schools the following fall, and even now across the nation, some students remain virtual.

The learning setbacks remain profound for students almost two years later. The three areas that were influenced the most by the pandemic were: students’ grades and performance while online, students’ lack of motivation, and a decrease in mental health. 

While the grading techniques varied by the school through 2020 and 2021, many schools resorted to a pass/fail system because of how challenging the year was for students. This alone caused students to stop trying and caused a plummet in motivation.

Additionally, students all over the country either don’t have access to the proper technology to pursue online school or don’t have the motivation to. The International Network of School Attendance (INSA) emphasizes two major reasons why students are not attending online learning: students lack support resources both technologically as well as educationally. Those significantly affected, according to the INSA report, are students with a “low socioeconomic status; minority groups; homeless; refugees; indigenous; those experiencing domestic violence, abuse, and neglect.”. Students lack support in online environments compared to traditional in-person school settings. Examples of things that are lacking from online education include an in-person teacher, special education professionals, social interactions with peers, and more.

Common Sense Media also surveyed online learners. The organization used 849 students and found that 47% of public school students hadn’t attended any virtual classes. This is nearly half of a school. This shows that students either aren’t motivated or don’t have the correct materials to do school to their full potential while online. 

Teachers protest mental health rights for students

Another issue that goes hand in hand with this is students’ mental health. Many students are more comfortable in an environment outside of their homes such as school as a way to escape home life and or their families or situations there. With the lack of motivation, teachers, parents, and friends of students saw an increase in depression levels. This can be due to a wide variety of things but many students endured this because of a lack of social interaction while at home. The CDC noticed this as well and said, “Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.” (CDC). They stress the importance of positive well-being in this article. Boston University also did a study on mental health during the pandemic.

The CDC also noticed that “Depression among people in the United States tripled in the early 2020 months of the global coronavirus pandemic—jumping from 8.5 percent before the pandemic to a staggering 27.8 percent. New research from Boston University School of Public Health reveals that the elevated rate of depression has persisted into 2021, and even worsened, climbing to 32.8 percent and affecting 1 in every 3 American adults.” (Boston University School of Public Health). The clear influx in depression rates in students and adults shows the need for school in person as it is a heavy factor. Though Covid-19 cases have risen and dropped suddenly many times since spring of 2020, the importance of in-school education needs to be stressed to governors and pursued. 

Overall, it’s important that through rises and falls of Covid-19 cases that students stay in school. Staying in-person allows students for a filled education with social interactions with peers and teachers, an increase in positive grades, and better overall mental heath rates.