The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc worldwide, not just in the health and medical care sector but in different kinds of sectors, particularly in the education sector. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reported that over 800 million students across the world have been affected: 1 in 5 students are having difficulties in attending school, 1 in 4 are not able to attend higher education classes, and over 102 countries have implemented nationwide school closures while 11 of them have order localized school closure.
Today, we will discuss the current status of COVID-19 worldwide, how COVID-19 affects education across many countries, and how students and teachers are coping with this challenging and unpredictable situation.
Current Status of COVID-19 Worldwide
As of September 28, 2021, more than 232 million cases and about 4.75 million deaths are recorded worldwide by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering. The figures indicated in the data only show the people who reported the COVID-19 cases and deaths. That’s why the experts said that it is still unclear how deadly the virus really is due to an enormous number of cases with mild or asymptomatic infections that have never been detected.
Additionally, the counts may ignore the deaths of people who die without having been tested. So, several institutions made some comparisons of death rates before and during the pandemic and they noticed an increase in deaths that is not explained by COVID-19 deaths alone. The estimates of the true numerical data of deaths from COVID-19 worldwide have included a range from 9.5 to 18.6 million as stated by The Economist.
From last April until now, the Delta variant of COVID-19 appears to be the globally dominant variant that continues to ravage at least 185 countries. First detected in India, it spreads almost twice as fast as the Alpha variant that emerged last October 2020 in the United Kingdom.
On August 30, 2021, the Mu variant of COVID-19 was designated as a variant of interest by the WHO. This particular variant first detected in Colombia in January 2021 contains mutations that show a risk of resistance to the latest vaccines. Since September, there have been outbreaks of this variant in South America and Europe.
How COVID-19 Affects Education Across Many Countries
There was a rapid conversion of educational instruction and teaching to an online or virtual platform when COVID-19 started last 2020 as many schools worldwide mandated school closures according to the health and safety protocols. Many educational experts and student learning professionals are struggling to formulate informed decisions about whether and when they could return to in-person classrooms.
Moreover, many countries have been implementing remote education programs to keep children and other learners worldwide in their learning. Sadly, those children and other learners who are living in poorer households without any internet access, personal computers, TVs, or radios are the ones who have been largely affected due to learning inequalities. Below are some details about the impact of COVID-19 on global education:
- While school closures are still ongoing, only 85% of countries or about a quarter of children and learners worldwide have access to the online educational platforms implemented by their governments.
- 463 million children and other learners (31%) cannot be reached by the broadcast- and Internet-based remote learning programs.
- 62% of students can be reached through television globally.
- 3 out of 4 students who come from the rural regions and/or belong to the poorest households are the ones who are struggling to get online education for home-based learning.
Students and Teachers During COVID-19 Pandemic
Many students and teachers are doing more than they ever were before due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Several research studies have shown that teacher stress and burnout might influence their students, and vice versa. Below are some statements from teachers as they experienced the impact of COVID-19 on education:
“The most challenging thing is having students that don’t show up to sessions when I know that they need it, and they know they need it.” – Leeat, a Special Education teacher
On the other hand, researchers at Lingnan University in Hong Kong conducted a survey as they found that only 27% of university students in Hong Kong are satisfied with online learning, which was adopted in early February when the outbreak first happened in the city, and that 60% mentioned online learning is of less benefit than classroom teaching. Plus, 48% of respondents said that their study pressure heightened when learning virtually, while 54% mentioned that their efficiency level in studying has lessened.
Another research team from the School of Graduate Studies conducted an international research study from 26 countries and regions in Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America. They revealed that almost 90% of respondents said the COVID-19 outbreak had caused “moderate to extreme” disruption to their learning activities.
The National Center for Health Statistics reported that there were 271 COVID deaths among persons ages 5-17 years and 120 deaths among those 0-4 years. Also, many reports showed that youth can be widely infected by COVID-19 when schools started to open for in-person classes. Schools should really consider the risk of transmission within their school if they want to open their schools.
A vast number of learners and teachers worldwide are immensely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Implementing other methods of teaching and learning through online or virtual classrooms is still the safest method to prevent youth and their teachers from contracting the virus. However, if schools implement and strictly adhere to various effective prevention strategies when they plan to open in-person classes, studies have shown that there is success in limiting COVID-19 transmission in schools, especially when they use constant testing of close contacts around them.