“I had to give my Smartphone to the child.” How distance learning discriminates against children based on the degree of prosperity of their parents

21 April 2021

We present the results of a survey on distance learning conducted among parents of Mari El Republic. Two-thirds of the respondents indicated deterioration in the health of their children. Other problems include the lack of equipment, the deterioration of the quality of teaching material, the child’s hard work, and the deterioration of financial situation of the family.

The Parents’ Committee of the Republic of Mari El, together with the public organizations “Man and Law”, “Big Family” and “Special Family”, with the support of the Deputy Chairman of the Commission for Social Affairs of the city of Yoshkar-Ola, Nikolai Kilin, conducted a survey among the parents of the republic about how distance learning changed the lives of the families, whether the child had enough to learn and whether they were subjected to any discrimination during distance learning.

 

Results

 

29 parents took part in the survey.

 

13 people noted the deterioration of the financial situation of the family due to the distance learning. The main reason was the problem with work – parents had to ask for time off, take a vacation. As a result, there was a reduction in income.

 

Two of them had to buy a computer for the child. Internet costs increased for two families. One family hired a tutor, because they were not satisfied with the quality of the teacher’s explanation of the topic.

 

The financial condition of 16 families remained at the same level.

 

In 11 families, children were not sufficiently provided with technical means for distance learning. 7 people did not have a computer or laptop. 2 children had to study using their mother’s Smartphone.

 

Only half of the respondents considered the Internet speed at home sufficient for distance learning.

 

20 parents noted the deterioration of children’s health during the distance learning. The main complaints were fatigue, pain in the head and back, irritability, problems with vision and sleep.

 

9 people felt that the learning process had deteriorated. A child could be given the lowest mark without understanding the reasons — if, for example, he/she was absent from the lesson when he/she did not have Internet access. There were too many tasks, and they were very difficult to perform (probably meant that it was difficult in comparison with full-time learning at school). Some of the students were busy from morning until late at night studying with their relatives. Schools did not provide technical means for distance learning, although they were legally required to.

 

Conclusions

 

Dissatisfaction with distance learning is a federal trend, and the problems identified in this survey were present in other regions, even in Moscow, although in general Moscow is better prepared for distance learning than the regions. According to a study by the Higher School of Economics, the capital is among the 12 regions which schools are best prepared for distance learning.

 

First of all, parents pay attention to the health of students: prolonged use of the computer, according to them, led to poor vision, excessive fatigue and headaches, which was reflected in the responses of parents from Mari El Republic.

 

“Of course, there are a lot of subjective things in these questionnaires, but this cannot be avoided,” says Olga Vasileva, project manager of NGO “Man and Law”. — We do not identify violations, we identify opinions, because no decisions should be made without taking into account the opinions of citizens. And citizens have the right to express an opinion without confirming it with an expert opinion.  Despite the fact that parents from great care can sometimes overestimate the impact of distance learning on the health of the child, officials should still pay attention to this. The Ministry of Health of Russia conducted a study among 30 thousand schoolchildren, as a result of which it turned out that, according to the children themselves, every fourth had headaches, every second had sleep disorders.”

 

According to the parents, the distance learning created financial problems for the families. It was most difficult for those who have more than one child in school. Usually, most families have computers or other technical means of connecting to the Internet, but more often only for one person, rather than several at the same time. According to the survey, among the participants from Mari El Republic, someone spent much money on buying a computer, while others gave their Smartphone to children. At the same time, none indicated that the school provided any equipment for learning.

 

Some parents had to sacrifice some of their earnings because they stayed at home with their children instead of working, or at least periodically took time off.

 

“According to Article 5 of the Law “On Education in the Russian Federation”, the right to education is guaranteed regardless of property, social status, place of residence and other circumstances, – says the lawyer of the project ” Different children-equal rights!”Dmitry Yalikov. – Accessibility and free access to primary general education is guaranteed.

 

In the case of switching to distance learning, the educational institution should create conditions that will allow students to master the curriculum remotely and ensure the full teaching of academic subjects.

 

The authorities and schools are responsible for providing material and technical support for any form of education. The measures taken by the school should not create obstacles to learning.

 

Therefore, schools cannot impose paid resources or require parents to create technical conditions beyond what the family has.

 

In the case of switching to distance learning, schools should adapt to the opportunities available to students and, if necessary, provide them with equipment for learning outside the school.”

 

A third of parents reported that they or their children had become targets of pressure. As for parents — as a rule, they have to endure negative feedback from the school administration or teachers if they write complaints or otherwise show disagreement with the way the school works during the distance learning. Children are discriminated against in terms of education.

 

The Constitution guarantees equal and accessible education to all Russian citizens. Distance learning divided children into those who have the Internet and devices working quite stably, and those who periodically drop out of the process for technical reasons, those who has enough funds to buy a computer, and those who is forced to use the mother’s phone.

 

Children perceive the material worse, because they do not have feedback from the teacher and classmates.

 

Unfortunately, very few people decided to talk about how their transition to distance learning went. Only in the social network Vkontakte in the group “Man and Law” the post about the beginning of the survey was viewed by about 5,7 thousand people. At the same time, there were not even 50 responses, and those that are available do not describe the positive experience of switching to distance learning. From this we can conclude that there are problems in distance education, but it is not customary to talk about them.

 

On the positive side, about half of the families, according to the survey, were able to adapt to distance learning, kept their income at the same level and provided their children with everything necessary for education.

 

At the same time, it is this division that discriminates in the sphere of public education, which should be equally accessible to all Russians. If the existing problems are not eliminated, this can lead to the formation of two branches of primary education: for the well-to-do and for the poor.

 

On 26 June 2020, the Russian Federation presented a report to the UN, which reported that the goal of eliminating extreme poverty has been achieved on the way to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in the main parameters. The country’s effective anti-poverty policy provides for reducing the national poverty level by at least two times by 2024. The above-mentioned discriminatory approach does not contribute to the fight against poverty in society.

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