Controversy has once again sparked following conflict between the government and Malta Union of Teachers following the increased number of COVID-19 cases. In view of the increase in daily new cases following the festive period, school teachers are arguing in favour of online lessons over physical attendance, out of fear that the situation is now getting out of control.
Following the announcement that church school teachers would be delivering their classes online, state school teachers went on strike after a lack of agreement between the Union and Prime Minister. The Union stated that all its members across kindergarten, primary, secondary and university institutions would not report for work unless the classes are held online. This action was supported by the Union of Professional Educators – Voice of the Workers, which also asked its members to strike.
Would online classes help in reducing daily cases?
One would naturally presume that classes held online with most students at home will reduce the chances of COVID-19 spread. Although schools are taking strong preventative measures to minimise the spread of COVID-19, having teachers and students interacting online may be the safest solution in terms of the pandemic.
What happens to those students who cannot stay at home?
Each family faces its own realities and some parents cannot work remotely and can neither allow their children to stay at home on their own. Considering these realities, home schooling cannot work for everyone and if we were truly to shift towards a remote first approach, schools would need to remain open to cater for these exceptions.
The social aspect
Whilst technology today enables home schooling to take place in an almost seamless fashion, students are deprived from each other’s company and this may negatively impact their social development skills. Some parents argue that following the stint in which their children were forced to attend classes from home, their social skills deteriorated rapidly.
What is the way forward?
It has been reported that government was working with the unions to facilitate school re-entry with a remote first approach being deemed as the less likely solution. The fact that there were some schools which took their classes online, whilst others had not yet started the new term due to ongoing discussions created an imbalance, with the students being in the middle of all this.
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