Australian school students are some of the luckiest in the world, with access to a range of education options, both free and paid. However educational inequity is still an entrenched part of our system, and this divide has been starkly obvious during this time of Covid-19 and home learning.
So much of our public discourse is understandably devoted to the health and economic impacts of Covid-19, however for many families, the biggest day to day transformation has been home learning. What we have recently found, however, is that the experience of doing school from home looks very different across Australia. Unfortunately, this disparity is closely aligned with social, economic and geographic advantage.
We recently surveyed 608 Australian primary school parents to better understand the impact of home learning, including the types of interactions students had with their teachers, the time commitment parents made to support their child’s learning and the ways this affected their careers.
According to our national study, which was conducted in April and May 2020, only 24 per cent of primary school parents said their child has participated in live online lessons as part of their home learning program. This figure is significantly lower among regional and rural households, with only 14 per cent of these families having live sessions.
Australian teachers and schools have rallied to support our students at extraordinary levels and in tremendous ways. Many have made time to call each family or stay in touch via email. However what we found was that Australian primary children are largely being educated via asynchronous learning methods. Almost 70 per cent of parents say their child’s teacher is delivering learning via:
The impact of homeschooling on parents
We’ve seen an increase in anxiety among parents as they struggle to support daily learning requirements, often for multiple children. This includes organising things like worksheets, login details, devices, Zoom meetings or videos and submission requirements, as well as actual teaching for younger students.
According to our study, 85 per cent of parents have been spending at least a couple of hours each day supporting their child’s home learning. Of that figure, 30 per cent of parents are dedicating their “whole day” to their child’s remote learning.
Many parents are clearly developing new insight into what their children are doing at school and how their children learn — which is wonderful — however this simply doesn’t apply to children whose parents or key support people are unable to assist with home learning at this time. This might be due to a whole host of factors, including language barriers, work or other commitments, trying to cater to multiple children or a lack of knowledge or skills in the area.
Technology and connectivity has revealed the first major inequity, however support at home in this difficult time comprises the other major inequity.
Bridging the educational gap
We know that it is of paramount importance for all students to have at least some direct interaction with an educator, and to receive the personalised input and feedback that really fuels learning. At Cluey, we have designed our digital learning environment to ensure real-time direct connection between a student and their tutor. While lack of that kind of direct interaction may have been a problem for students learning at home, as they go back to school those conversations between students and their teachers will be fundamental to ensuring that gaps in learning are identified and students set on the right learning paths.
Cluey Learning has recently completed a series of studies on the impact of homeschooling in a time of Covid-19. Their goal was to better understand the experience of teaching and learning for parents, students and educators. They will be presenting more findings from their parent research, as well as perspectives from senior students, via their blog in the coming weeks.