The participation of pre-school children has fallen by more than 50% since the pandemic began, according to data generated by the National Research Institute on Early Education. Despite educators’ efforts to connect with students remotely, few families have been able to stay in constant contact.
“This massive reduction in the level of attendance of pre-school students has affected all families, regardless of their age, race, socioeconomic status or academic preparation,” says the report. However, the most affected are the children of parents with a low educational level.
Right now the way forward is uncertain, but what should not be lacking is that preschool programs have certain basic characteristics. For example, it is important that parents receive resources to create a daily activity guide. In addition, a monitoring protocol should be considered, in order to catch any delay in cognitive development in time.
Achieving this has its challenges, as “the value of pre-school education is difficult to replicate through remote tools,” said authors W. Steven Barnett and Kwanghee Jung, responsible for the study. This difficulty is due to the lack of social interaction and hands-on projects. “This is something that has to be carefully considered when making decisions, both by parents and by public officials,” they clarified.
After interviewing nearly 1,000 families, the researchers found that, despite efforts to provide academic support and send materials home for the children, only slightly more than half of the parents reported participating in videoconferencing or Adopted routines like reading stories at home or creating some kind of science-related activity, even once a week.
Some experts suggest that the virus does not affect young children. Consequently, opening schools for preschoolers should not be a problem.
“If the numbers [de casos] are low in a community, the reality is that the chances of infection for children will also be low, ”said Gibbie Harris, the director of Public Health for Mecklenburg in North Carolina.
A recent webinar from the nonprofit CityHealth commented that there are many community early education programs that will not open. This is still problematic, especially for low-income families, whose mastery of digital tools, as well as lack of experience, makes them particularly vulnerable to the lack of equality that prevails within the public system. These inequalities were vividly highlighted in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In theory, this would be the ideal time to reduce disparities in the distribution of educational resources, since black and Latino children are the ones who suffer the consequences of this unfair distribution most severely, according to an analysis made by the University of California , Berkeley: analysis of classroom quality across 1,610 pre-K sites in New York City.
In conclusion, and as Leslie McKinily, delegate of the Department of Early Education of the public schools in Chicago, said: as the districts’ plans for distance and face-to-face education progress this school year, the goal is that the new students of kindergarten students focus on the foundational skills of literacy, in order to beat the damage caused by the disruption suffered in their preschool year. If not, the knowledge gap could be fatal for the rest of your academic life.
-Hergit Llenas is an activist, writer and director of Hispanic Engagement for The American Federation for Children