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Is it possible to make up for the time lost by COVID-19 in Spanish education?

The closure of educational centers during confinement has caused losses in student learning that will have negative consequences in their lives in the medium and long term. Some experts propose strategies to recover what was lost, but are they getting started?

When the return to classes is a reality and the general concern is focused on the control of possible cases of contagion within the classrooms, economists from different countries are convinced that the damage has already been done and that it is necessary to compensate it quickly.

According to studies carried out in several European countries, the average loss of student learning caused by the break in confinement and the subsequent summer can reach 6% compared to a normal year. This decrease in skills will have a direct reflection on the reduction of around 2% in the potential future salaries of these students, worsening in the most disadvantaged sectors of society.

Online education is not a substitute

Online training, presented as an efficient substitute for face-to-face training, seems to have failed to prevent the loss of skills. Economists and teachers agree: it is not possible to substitute fundamental aspects such as adequate monitoring, orientation and motivation of students by teachers, nor the stimulation of group work offered by face-to-face classes.

In fact, trusting everything to online education has caused an increase in inequality in learning processes. Students who are lagging behind and those belonging to the most disadvantaged sectors of the population have been clearly affected, even by 20% according to recent studies, either due to the lack of technical means and the lack of support from tutors in the training process of the students.

In the light of these investigations, an effect derived from the above would consist of the possible increase in early leaving the educational system at the end of compulsory education. This drop-out, already in Spain in 2019 at 17.3%, makes it the country in the EU with the highest percentage of young people between 18 and 24 years of age who do not have secondary studies (Basic, Middle or Baccalaureate FP completed) and that he does not continue to do any training.

According to these data, it is clear that the potential cost of not opening schools for society and the economy is indisputable, especially affecting students with fewer resources, with long-term effects on their future income and therefore on inequality economical.

Is it possible to make up for lost learning time and skills?

Research carried out by British economists concludes that the effectiveness of the implementation of tutoring of small groups of reinforcement and support to lagging students to compensate for the loss of learning due to the closure of the centers is proven.

The proven efficiency of these tutorials is based on the fulfillment of a series of conditions. In the first place, that the contracted tutors have higher education, receive specific training, work full time throughout the course with the same group of students and are coordinated with the school teachers of their students. Second, the efficiency of these tutorials decreases the larger the group, with a more pronounced drop in those with more than 6 students.

A team of Spanish economists made up of Almudena Sevilla, Professor of Economics at the University College London, and Jorge Sainz and Ismael Sanz, both from the Rey Juan Carlos University, have quantified the economic cost of implementing these tutorials in Spain at all levels educational.

Basically, most of the budget would be dedicated to covering the working time of the tutors, and their specific training, since the tutorials would be carried out in the student’s educational center, after school hours, which would generate lower additional costs .

To account for the amount of time necessary for the duration of these tutorials, these researchers estimate that the group of students who might require tutored support would reach 40% of the students in compulsory education and 100% of those who take FP. These ratios are based on educational indicators, such as the percentage of students who did not reach the basic level of proficiency in the last PISA report. Logically, the selection of participants should start from a previous evaluation of the level of each student.

Recovering lost learning would cost 365 million euros

Sevilla and his team, based on experiences carried out in the United Kingdom by the Education Endowment Foundation, calculate that a tutorial program of half an hour a day for 12 weeks in small groups of 5 students would be enough to recover the learning deficit produced by the stoppage of confinement and the summer.

The costs tested in the British experiences are specified at € 770 for each group, an amount assumed as valid by the Spanish researchers, and which would yield a cost for the program of 365 million euros.

This economic item, being important, would constitute less than 1% of public spending for Education in Spain in 2018. “It is important to highlight that the effects of learning loss will fall on students with fewer resources, with long-term effects on their income. future and therefore, on economic inequality in our country ”, argues Almudena Sevilla.

But is there a will to make up for this lost time?

Despite the fact that there are firm proposals to redirect the situation, the different Administrations, state and regional, are concentrating their economic efforts on the hiring of teaching staff with the aim of doubling the school groups and thus avoid possible contagion of COVID in the school environment .

However, the reality on the ground is that the number of new teachers who are joining educational centers (In Andalusia, 1 or 2 teachers hired per selected center) is insufficient to make this split possible.

Some decisions taken at the end of the previous year, such as the suspension of the teaching of new educational content as of March, the reduction of the required content in the University entrance exam, as well as the reduction of hours of practices in the FP, seem to point to this learning time being lost.

In fact, in 13 of the 17 Spanish Autonomous Communities, the strategy aimed at recovering certain contents of the lost training has consisted of writing an individualized report for each student that details the “essential learning not acquired” due to “the circumstances of the third trimester”. Report that should serve, in turn, to “design recovery plans” for this course.

However, in educational centers, teachers such as Yeray Recio, Head of Studies of a Center for Early Childhood and Primary Education in the province of Seville, think that what is intended is “to try to teach the content of 12 months in 9 months “, That is, the contents corresponding to the last quarter of the previous academic year and those of the present one.

Even more skeptical is JM, a teacher of Secondary Education in the province of Córdoba who prefers to remain anonymous, for whom the problems of Education in Spain are deeper. “If society, politicians, parents, do not give priority to the education of their children, in the end, COVID will only be the foam of the wave that is sweeping Education in Spain.” He affirms it with the harshness of someone who has suffered an attempted assault on the part of a student’s mother, just the day before.

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