University of São Paulo: Lack of planning for remote education may increase school dropout in face-to-face return

The remote education programs presented by state governments and Brazilian capitals were very weak in worrying about student access throughout 2020 and can lead to an increase in school dropout, hinder progression, in addition to increasing inequalities – Photo: Barueri City Hall

Of the 27 federation units, 22 already foresee the return to face-to-face classes, between February and March, in a hybrid system – online and face-to-face, simultaneously. Classes return a year after the schools close and, during this period, the lack of access to distance classes was a problem for the vast majority of students in the public school system, shows an article published by researchers from USP. The authors assessed the effectiveness of the programs for remote classes offered by state governments and all Brazilian capitals. The results showed that the remote education programs presented were very weak in worrying about access, throughout 2020, and can lead to an increase in school dropout, hinder students’ progression, in addition to increasing Brazilian inequalities.

The article An assessment of remote public education programs in Brazilian states and capitals during the COVID-19 pandemic , available on the Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV) website, shows that problems related to classes do not end with face-to-face feedback. The classroom situation in the UK is an example that proves the complexity of the situation and that the debate about online classes is far from over.

Photos: Reproduction of the article

The return plans require the coexistence of online and face-to-face classes, which again raises the problem of access faced by many students in 2020. In addition, the researchers point out that not all students had access to education during the last year , which hampers school progression, increases the tendency to drop out of school and increases educational inequalities in Brazil.

Lorena Barberia – Photo: Disclosure / IEA-USP
“Public policies exist to protect everyone, including the most vulnerable. Some had an interaction and very different experience during the pandemic, others do not even heard anything from your teacher or school, “says the Journal of the USP Lorraine Barber, a researcher at the Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences (FFLCH) USP and one of the authors of the article. For her, the debate is being placed as a duality between opening or not opening schools, but it goes much deeper.

Many schools continued to teach, but only to those with access to the internet. It is different the evaluation of the reopening for this group in relation to those who have not had anything for months and then started taking classes on television, without interaction with teachers, for example. This group needs to receive differentiated attention.

According to data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), one in four Brazilians does not have access to the internet. The issue of access has been neglected by all government plans for remote classes. There are a variety of them, some happened quickly, others took months. The State of Bahia (BA), for example, did not present any plans until the end of the study. The plans left students with access to unequal education, in proportion to pre-existing inequalities.

In the history of Brazil, there has never been a time when education had to change as much and as quickly as it did because of the pandemic. As a result, the researchers emphasize that it is necessary to demarcate this situation and have clear indicators of the errors of 2020 so that they do not recur in 2021.

“If education was already uneven in the country, it became even greater in 2020. Now, with the return to school, we will have students compelled to consider dropping out of school, due to the return in absurd conditions of inequality”, points out Luis Guilherme Roth Cantarelli, researcher involved in the study.

Percentage of States by means of transmission (March-October 2020)

Percentage of capital through transmission (March-October 2020)

Index of Distance Education Programs
The group of researchers from the Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences (FFLCH) at USP developed an index capable of evaluating the general quality of distance education programs in early childhood, primary and secondary education, in Brazil in 2020. The Index of Distance Education Programs considered the means of transmission adopted (television, internet, radio, etc.), the investments applied (if there was an internet supply, chips, devices, etc.), student supervision policies and the coverage of these programs . The scale ranges from 0 to 10.

The grades obtained are worrying. None of the programs implemented, both by state governments and state capitals, scored higher than 6. The average for state programs is 2.4 while that of state capitals is 1.6. Each of the components considered was multiplied by the value of the score obtained in the coverage. So, if the State made a great plan but with low coverage, just for high school, for example, his grade drops.

Another point worth mentioning in the Index is the delay in implementation. In other words, if the State made a great plan, but left students adrift for months, the grade drops. An average was made, over time, so if the State took too long to present a plan, it is as if it had scored zero in that period.

“That is why the grades are so low, no state provided access with quality, it was very limited and focused on the distribution of printed material”, explains Pedro Henrique De Santana Schmalz, author of the study. In some places, such as Maranhão, devices were provided through donations from civil society, but failed to reach significant percentages of students without access.

Percentage of States by adopted supervisory option (March-October 2020)

Percentage of capital by supervisory option adopted (March-October 2020)

Supervision of students
Most of the plans have no provision for student supervision. “The school has a much bigger role than just giving handouts to students, who need interaction with teachers and supervision,” says Lorena Barberia. In this sense, she points out that a plan for remote education cannot be limited to giving only printed material to the student.

Schools started to offer the content without providing any kind of contact between teachers and students and no type of monitoring by the secretariat to monitor how the access was. Most assessments have been suspended and, without monitoring, it is unlikely that the teaching will be of quality.

Regional inequality
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Conference discusses remote classes and post-pandemic scenario in basic and higher education
Throughout 2020, the Ministry of Education knew that some states were having difficulties adapting to the situation and that some did not even come up with a plan. As the federal government has always been opposed to the closure of schools, it did not centralize education policy in 2020, leaving states without a guideline on which way to go.

There is a heterogeneity of plans between States and between capitals. Each State implemented the possible measures, those with more resources and more capacity managed to survive without the assistance of the Ministry of Education, however, those without resources ended up being left even further behind, in this sense. The authors point out that this is serious because it can not only increase inequalities among students – those who have access in relation to those who do not – but also increase regional inequalities.

How not to make the same mistakes in 2021
“In order not to make the same mistakes in 2021, it is important that we do not wait to resolve education in the middle of the year, we need to bring up this debate, which should have already taken place in 2020”, says Lorena. The researcher also says that it is necessary to evaluate what worked in other countries and even in Brazil, as we spent many months without discussing the pragmatic problems of remote education. In other countries, it was seen that the return to face-to-face classes needed to be suspended, so the debate must remain alive. “We need clear plans and developed by professionals”, he concludes.

For Luis Guilherme, an issue to be raised is the inspection. Looking ahead to 2020, when trades reopened, enforcement failed to enforce the rules; it is a mistake that cannot be made again, schools need to reopen with a very clear inspection protocol and what will be done. When public opinion was focused on the pandemic, the problems of education were put aside.

“We have to focus on access, supervision of students and monitoring to prevent the gap between public and private and those who have access and those who do not, from getting deeper yet”, concludes Pedro Henrique.

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