A strange thought occurred to me recently.
For the first time in almost twenty years, autumn isn’t the equivalent of going back to school. No more pointless hours spent in a desk bored to death by the public educational system. No more annoying team projects or PowerPoint presentations nobody gives a damn about.
The educational system faces a great challenge this year and I don’t think I could have handled it.
To give you a bit of context, I obtained a Master’s Degree this year, hence completing my formal education. Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, my university converted to online learning since March. I confess it worked very well for me since I focused on completing my dissertation paper. Without wasting time commuting and with only two main courses to attend from the comfort of my home, I felt less stressed about academic tasks. So, if I thrived in those conditions, why do I say I am glad I am not in school anymore?
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Chaos
It is said chaos fosters good ideas, but I doubt this applies to the educational system. The world has been facing the pandemic for six months already but the authorities haven’t found any feasible solutions yet. It’s up to every institution to decide how it will operate during this academic year.
For example, my former high school has chosen a hybrid program. Half of the students go to school while the other half attends the classes online; they switch places every two weeks. This is a better way than remote learning because it still gives teenagers the chance to socialize face to face. Moreover, alternating between groups ensures a balanced education for every student. What I fear is that many of them will turn to tutors, thus limiting what little free time they have.
Another version implies that physical presence is mandatory only for the seminars, while the course materials and lectures are delivered via online platforms. This is a disadvantage for students who reside in different areas than the city they study in. With the rent expenses rising and the limited accommodation possibilities, students must find a way to adjust to the combined syllabus.
Missed Opportunities and Experiences
Let’s get real. The teenage years and the early twenties are supposed to be the best years of your life. New places to explore, new people to meet, experimenting, visiting, losing, and finding yourself all over again and all that jazz. It’s going to be a bit hard with all these necessary but annoying safety measures. My college years weren’t wild, but they were marked by a sense of freedom I already miss. Remember when you could go from table to table in a busy bar to greet people, drink in hand, without fearing you jeopardize your health? Remember how it was to have a graduation party? That’s what I was talking about.
Apart from the social side, the pandemic hinders many other activities essential for future careers, such as internships. I was supposed to acquire certain skills with the help of a licensed psychotherapist during my last semester. Unfortunately, Lady Rona came to town and everything was shut down. We ended up asking our friends and families to act as `clients` to complete our tasks. It was a very disappointing experience for all of us because internships are very hard to find in this field.
One of my best friends is a medicine student. That means she will move between departments of various hospitals to learn firsthand about medical afflictions and procedures. She fears what might happen – and rightfully so!
I Fear The System Will Fail Its Students
I don’t even know where to begin. From the lack of digital resources to unprepared teaching staff, it seems that we have a recipe for disaster. We all had that venerable teacher who didn’t know how to open their microphone during lectures…Do I need to say more? University is all about individual study, but what about middle school students, who depend on their teacher to receive the information they need?
Let’s hope the teachers really try their best. Let’s say they are young, empathic, they do their job responsibly and they can use a laptop. But what about children from isolated communities or poor families? They already had limited access to education. Now, with these restrictive measures, it is hard to believe they would make much progress. You see, the pandemic highlights the shortcomings of our society.
While this might be a grim point of view, it comes from a weary heart who had a hard time trying to fit into a rigid education system.
For those who are going back to school this autumn, no matter your background, age, or specialization, I hope you will make the best out of it! Try to focus on learning what you feel it’s important for you. And don’t stress too much about grades. Take it from me, they won’t grant you anything but fleeting satisfaction. If you are a freshman, here are some useful insights. Stay safe, be kind to yourself and others, and strive to be a bit better every day!