To Hibernate or Not To Hibernate...

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To Hibernate or Not To Hibernate…

Written by Alvin Hew
SIS Group of Schools, Board Director

Why You Need To Continue Distance Learning

There does not seem to be any signs of the Covid-19 pandemic ending soon despite massive actions by governments and large social distancing measures implemented around the world. Cases continue to grow at exponential rates and it would seem the world will not see the end of this pandemic until the discovery of a vaccine. An available vaccine is not likely until early to mid 2021.

This has important implications for your child’s education. We all want children to go back to school and think of distance learning, digital learning, online learning or home-based learning as a unique 2020 memory! The reality is that distance learning is likely to be with us for some time. This is indeed the case for many universities that we know of in Canada as well as some universities in America and Europe. Things will not be that different for K-12 schools. Working together with local authorities, we at SIS Group of Schools – for the safety of our students, faculty and staff – will be starting our 2020-2021 school year online. If conditions are right, we can potentially move to a hybrid learning environment in term2.

Faced with this prospect, we understand that some parents are now thinking about “hibernating” their children from school during the time that schooling and pedagogy delivery is being done digitally. This is especially so for parents with young children going to nursery school and kindergarten. 

While it may seem like a practical idea and one that is harmless, data and research shows that hibernating children and keeping them away from school is not in your child’s best interest. In fact it has vastly negative consequences…in the short term and in the long term.

Missing school for a term or semester can mean a child can be considered “chronically absent”. Dr. Robert Belfanz, a research scientist at the Center for Social Organization of Schools at Johns Hopkins University says that, 

“Chronic absences keep children from getting the consistent instruction they need to build on basic skills in the short term. For kids with learning and thinking differences: frequent absences not only mean less instruction, but also missed opportunities for intervention, for reteaching and enrichment.” 

One in six children who were chronically absent in both kindergarten and first grade were proficient readers by the end of third grade.

He goes on further to note that missing school in the early years can have a “Snowball Effect” in the medium term as it will set children up to fall behind in the fundamental reading skills they need in order to move on to more complicated work. A California study showed that only one in six children who were chronically absent in both kindergarten and first grade were proficient readers by the end of third grade.

In the long term, hibernation can lead to a bad habit because research shows that kids who are allowed to miss school when they’re young are more likely to skip school when they’re older. And this can lead to other consequences. Dr. Belfanz further shared that being chronically absent affects high school graduation rates and the chances for success in college. He quotes a Rhode Island study that shows only 11 percent of high school students with chronic absences made it to their second year of college. 

Staying engaged with other students is key to personal development – even if it’s via Zoom. 

Maintaining the engagement of children, particularly young secondary school students is critical. Going to school is not only about learning math and science, but also about social relationships and peer-to-peer interactions. It is about learning to be a citizen and developing social skills. The whole world is learning how to continue on via Zoom and digital tools – why would you deprive your child of that adaptation?

So…to hibernate or not to hibernate, we think the answer is clear. Parents need to keep their children in school even if school starts online so children have the best short term, medium term and long term results.

 

Supporting Articles:

1 Chronic Absenteeism: Dr. Robert Belfanz, John Hopkins, Interview

2 UNESCO Report: Adverse Effects of School Closures

3 World Bank Blog: Educational Challenges and Opportunities of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) Pandemic