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I recently came across another COVID-19 related article I simply could not ignore. The article, which dealt with educators tackling truancy for online classes during COVID-19, immediately grabbed my attention.
Professionals at a particular school board were “…worried students learning online may be missing hundreds of hours of lessons during the COVID-19 pandemic.” They also said, “…many students registered for online learning are not engaging in their classes”, and “…they’re just sort of dropping off the face of the earth, so to speak…” In fact, it was stated that “…the school division doesn’t know where they are.”
It should be obvious that this issue is not restricted to this particular school board. It is largely a COVID-19 lockdown problem, but then again, was this another problem that existed all along and was simply under the cover of the school system? A clue was provided when it was revealed that this school board hired four new social workers and intends to hire five more – for a total force of twenty – for the purpose of:
• “…(helping) to bridge the online learning issues and engage students and parents
• (welcoming) them back into the classrooms
• (making) sure to get them going on that learning journey from wherever they were at now.”
There was concern that perhaps these online students did not have the proper equipment or internet connection, or there was competition for limited resources. It was also stated that children really wanted to be back in a classroom at school, which may indeed have been the case when schools were forced to close, yet does not apply to the 32% of students who opted out of virtual classroom instruction to do actual online courses.
The solutions being offered in this article were a classic example of dealing with the symptoms rather than the cause. It was suggested that the government provide more free technology, and predictably, the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) urged the government to hire more teachers under the guise that more teachers would mean less students per teacher and thus reduced susceptibility to exposure to the virus. I am not sure how this applies to children at home. In any case, no mention was made of the fact that all teachers are mandated to pay union dues and any increase in teachers would benefit the ATA!
Neither of these solutions will change much as neither addresses the fact that when schools lost their control over mandatory classroom attendance, they were made vulnerable to exposure.
As students were sent home or chose to do their classes online, teachers, programs, methods, content, ideologies, etc. were seen, evaluated and found to be wanting by parents who had previously left everything up to the school.
How many times have you heard your child say, “Why do I have to learn this?” or “When will I ever need this in life?” This is a universal question asked by every student. Home educating parents and teachers are immediately able to explain and will either coerce the student into compliance, or realize the child has a good point and change course.
However, when the student is being taught virtually at home, this universal question does not get answered. If parents get involved in explaining why the student needs to “learn this stuff”, they are accused of interfering with the professional teacher who is not likely to hear the question in the first place.
How does the system fix this? Simple. Hire more people to normalize school as the standard deliverer of all things educational and do what’s necessary to “encourage” parental compliance.
Actually, there is a very simple and practical solution to students being “truant”. Make it a permanent “problem” by bringing the children home and teaching them meaningful, practical, applicable skills that will actually help them in their lives.
It is time for parents to reclaim their authority in education, in keeping with clear directives from God, and common sense. Home educated students are never “truant”. Neither are students made truant by the government mandate to stay home, online programming or not.