More than 20% of adolescents have had difficulty following online classes during the pandemic

About one in five teens experienced “real trouble” following online classes during the pandemic. A difficulty that, according to them, was marked by the overexertion involved in dealing with telematics education in isolation, with great material deficiencies for the most vulnerable, lack of motivation and the general perception that they were improvising. After this experience, most strongly reject an exclusively online education, but assume that in the future it could become mixed. Of course, they want and demand that, if done, a factor that proved to be essential should not be harmed: socialization and, ultimately, ‘face to face’ with their classmates, but also with teachers.

These are some of the conclusions derived from the study ‘Youth experiences and perceptions on the digital adaptation of the school in a pandemic‘, prepared by the Foundation for Help against Drug Addiction (FAD) and BBVA, and presented on Wednesday in an event that had the participation of the Minister of Education, Pilar Alegría. The investigation was carried out by means of a survey carried out on 602 students between 14 and 18 years old with the aim of “giving a voice to adolescents” and see how they have experienced online education and what deficiencies have been found, highlighted the technical director of FAD, Eulalia Alemany.

As Alemany recalled, the study was done in June 2021, when it was still “very recent” what happened with the pandemic and the difficulties they had to face during the 2020-21 school year. According to the results, only 28.1% of those interviewed affirm that they could keep up with the rhythm online at home “perfectly”. Almost half (47.2%) say they did it “well” but “with some difficulties”, 16.6% affirm that they have done it “with enough difficulties” and 4.3% admit that it has been “almost impossible”. These last two figures together represent what the director of FAD called a “significant minority”: “It must be seen that we have left behind 20% of the students, which are many”.

Socio-economic gap: 20% followed the classes with their mobile

The work has highlighted the socioeconomic gap that greatly influences student achievement. “It is a very decisive variant that involves a very significant number of students,” Alemany warned. The results show clear evidence: the lower the families’ standard of living, the more material deficiencies they have and, therefore, the more numerous the difficulties that teenagers have to deal with.

And, despite the fact that the majority stated that they followed the classes from home with a laptop, almost 20% acknowledged having done it using a mobile phone. In addition, one in four young people said they had “constantly or frequently” problems with the use of devices or the Internet throughout the course; with difficulties such as cuts or slow connection, an inappropriate environment at home, the need to devote oneself to other tasks, having to share equipment or – as would be the case with smartphones– the limitations of technological devices.

Greater effort and more demotivation

When asked what they would improve after this stage of online education, the adolescents highlighted the lack of organization, planning and adaptation as the main problem; both the course and the subjects, as well as the teachers themselves. “They have told us that there was a lot of inequality, because there were teachers who had mastered it -the online method- and teachers who had it very lost”, Alemany explained. And it is that, as the study points out, on many occasions the paradox was produced by which technology, the “paradigm of hypercommunication”, constituted in the relationship between teachers and students and, in the end, in the achievement of a climate adequate educational.

Suicide is the leading cause of unnatural death in Spain.

Ultimately, most agree that this method has been an over-effort when following the classes. Specifically, 46% claimed to have had to “try harder”, of which 27.5% are students from public schools. Here, too, the socioeconomic gap shines, as the percentage among lower-class youth who claim to have had to do more in the previous year amounts to 60%.

But nevertheless, the biggest loss for young people was the physical absence of their friends. Research shows that lack of contact with peers generated emotions of discouragement, boredom, and sadness. “Feeling that ‘one only studies’, in the face of the need to socialize as an essential part of education,” the study details.

In conclusion, the balance of students on online education to which the entire educational community was subjected in the first months of the pandemic, can be improved. Only 12.5% ​​of them now want an exclusively digital education, compared to 33.9% who defend an exclusively face-to-face system and 42.2% who bet on a combined system. Of the latter, in addition, 17.3% would bet on the two methods but with a higher percentage of face-to-face education.

Alegría advocates facing the challenge of digitization

File - A boy uses the computer to do his homework.

In a week back to school especially marked by the debate on how it should be approached in a context of spike in infections, the Minister of Education, Pilar Alegría, celebrates that students opt for presence. “I’m glad it’s a shared decision”, he declared, recalling that the course began last September with no vaccinated students.

Regarding digital education, Alegría pointed out that what the pandemic has done is accelerate a process of change that was already taking place. “The way we educate our children has to adapt to that digital reality. We must look to the future, we cannot continue with methodologies from the past”, he stressed. “What worries me the most is how we attend to that reality, that digital revolution, without this causing or accentuating much more differences or biases,” he added during his closing speech at the event.

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