#COVID19: What does it mean for our education?

illustration of birds-eye view of girl studying, sitting crossed-legged on the floor typing on a laptop with pens and notes scattered around and a cup of coffee

These last weeks have been stressful for us students, with all the uncertainty surrounding our future and even what the next few days have in store for us. And we’ve all heard from different people about every single concern, from both federal and state governments arguing over our future to principals, teachers and parents trying to decide what’s best for us in these coming months.

Recently, on March 22nd, Premier Dan Andrews took it upon himself to make the executive decision for Victoria to bring forward the term 1 holidays to March 24th, going above Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s head.

I know many of you have been very excited about this fact, but to me it only increases concerns about my future.

From my view, the government has cleverly disguised their decision under the cloak of “term break is starting early:”, but is it really a break? Online classes are now in place, extra homework has been added to the long list of things to do, and while us students are now at home, teachers remain in school.

This sounds more like a closure to me, because if it were actually a term break then teachers would have also finished school on the 24th. This is a feeling of impending doom.

The question of returning to school on April 14th has never been more uncertain. This is a massive concern to me. Morrison has made it very clear in all of his addresses to the public that if you put the nation on lockdown now it will stay that way for a long time; schools potentially have to commit to six months of online learning from home and would still face the risk of students having to repeat the year. From my understanding, many members of our community are assuming that this extended term break will be a quick fix to this issue and that in three weeks everybody will be able to migrate back into society.

This is not the case. Why anyone thinks it is truly baffles me.

We have seen in Europe (Italy, specifically) how this lockdown has been playing out. America has begun the same process, as well as Boris Johnson also announcing a lockdown in England as well. States across Australia are all beginning to declare their own lockdown, and soon our entire nation will be too. This means that returning to school come April 14th seems extremely unlikely to me,  and if we did, statistics and the health ministers are all stating that we will meet a spike in the spread of the virus thanks to the assistance of the impending flu season. Which means lockdown would quickly resume itself. So, for us, the school term will begin online.

Doing online learning state-wide or even nation-wide seems like a very difficult challenge to overcome. The obvious issue with it is that we do not currently have the resources or infrastructure to manage all schools across Victoria moving online.

Another obvious issue to me is that schools doing online learning will be entirely different to individuals who undertake distance education/online learning already; the programs and teachers available to those who do online learning are better equipped and understand how to effectively teach students online. This will not be the case for us.

Teachers will be in the same position as us students, learning how to manage and alter their teaching methods. We will have to learn how to learn in a completely different way, since the opportunity to have face-to-face conversations will no longer be available. It will also be particularly difficult for those of us doing VCE, learning new area of studies alone, undertaking SAC’s in a completely different way and even potentially having our ATAR scores calculated solely on the result of our end-of-year exams. To me, that is the scariest potential on the table currently. Even though as a year 12 student I am highly against having to repeat the year, there really is no other alternative for me if it comes down to it.

As a short-term fix, I think that while online learning will still help us stay on track with our education and educational timeline, it will not be sustainable as a long-term fix. But what other choice is there?