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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

Despite massive actions by governments, a growing number of vaccinated Indonesian citizens and large social distancing measures implemented around the world, the Covid-19 pandemic seems to be dragging on. While vaccines have given us hope, cases of the Delta and other new variants continue to grow at exponential rates and it would seem the world will not see the end of this pandemic until many more people are fully vaccinated. In the last week of June and early July 2021 the South Asian region and Indonesia, in particular, has been hit hard.

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 period but now a distant 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 2021-2022 school year online.

We have worked incredibly hard to make sure all of our staff and teachers are fully vaccinated, and have even begun hosting vaccine drives for our over-12-year-olds and even the public at large. If conditions are right, we can potentially move to a hybrid learning environment in semester 2.

Faced with this prospect, we understand that some parents are now thinking about continuing to “hibernate” their children from school. 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, especially for long periods, 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 and Virtual Reality (VR).

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 we are very proud of our new adoption of Virtual Reality (VR) and the development of a virtual play area called the Moon Base using the AltSpaceVR platform. – why would you deprive your child of both the continuation of their academic path and the socialisation available now using digital tools?

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 academically, as well as continue to develop socially.

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