what is next? 12 ways covid will shape education in 2022

1. Keeping Schools Open

Large-scale school closures are unlikely – but the challenge of maintaining in-person teaching will remain due to staff shortages due to isolation rules linked to positive cases.

The availability of student teachers provided a lifeline in the last week of the previous session, but they have to summarize their studies after mid-term.

Another danger is the high risk of rapid spread of Omicron in an orbit setting. Unsurprisingly, schools that recorded only a few cases of transmission of Covid-19 were battling with the new version of cases during the last weeks of December.

However, the government’s policy remains that closing schools will be the last resort. Politically, it is difficult to see a state-sanctioned shutdown at a time when shops and cafes remain open.

Students appearing in last year’s Leaving Certificate. Photograph: Dara Mac Donnelly

2. Crack the Grade Inflation Bubble

The COVID-related teacher shortage has already moved the Leaving CERT oral exam to the first week of the Easter holidays. Further disruption will, inevitably, fuel student calls to replay previous year’s choices between teacher-assessed grades and exams.

Another major issue that has to be addressed is grade inflation. Last year’s record set of higher grades increased the top marks and CAO scores. In fact, some of the students securing maximum marks are still not found the course of their first choice.

Norma Foley has indicated that grades will return to a more normal level this year with the return of more traditional exams.

Education Minister Norma Foley.  Photograph: Gareth Chaney / Collins

Education Minister Norma Foley. Photograph: Gareth Chaney / Collins

The move would mean that the Class of 2021 (and, to a lesser extent, the Class of 2020) would benefit from their record high grades if they reapply for college courses this year; Thousands are expected to do so.

However, this puts many of this year’s Leaving Certificate students at risk in looking for high-point courses. This will prove to be a delicate balancing act.

3. Minimizing Learning Loss

The results of standardized tests later this year should give us the first clue about the impact of COVID-19 on learning loss.  Photo: iStock

The results of standardized tests later this year should give us the first clue about the impact of COVID-19 on learning loss. Photo: iStock

It is still too early to assess the full extent of the learning loss over the past two years, but the picture should become clear very soon.

The results of standardized tests conducted in primary schools last year will give us the best insights about the impact on children’s education.

The latest research from the Netherlands, which had shorter periods of school closures, is that online learning was not successful. Primary children performed an average of 20 percent worse than equivalent groups for the three years before the pandemic.

Among the more marginalized students, the learning loss was even greater: up to 60 percent higher than in the general population.

Preliminary research in Ireland indicates we have a similar experience: the pandemic widened already existing achievement gaps, with disadvantaged and special needs students hit hardest.