Covid-19 Is Furthering Educational InequityJanuary 30, 2021
Technology was hoped to be the vessel that brought high-quality education to areas where it wasn’t previously available. The Covid-19 pandemic forced education online, but failed to bring students from low-income families online at the same rate as those from more affluent areas. The tools that make virtual and online learning available to students aren’t guaranteed in low-income areas, since not all students have the means to procure even the cheapest laptops.
Br Artur Meyster of Career Karma
The effects of the pandemic will be felt long after a vaccine or cure is found. Low-income college students are attending college in part to try to end the cyclical nature of poverty. However, the pandemic is adding stress to living and working situations, and hampering the efforts of these students to return to college. Students in low-income areas are more adversely affected than their wealthier peers. Online learning can positively affect learners, but only if they can properly access the material and have a safe space to do so.
Unlike office workers, low-skilled employees can’t complete their work remotely. This disparity puts low-skilled workers at greater risk for catching Covid-19, being laid off, or facing a reduction in hours. These financial consequences are preventing low-income workers from breaking out of poverty.
Not All Students Have A Capable Computer
Two things are needed to successfully learn online—a laptop and a stable Internet connection. Access to up-to-date laptops and an Internet connection aren’t guaranteed in low-income communities. Households with multiple school-age children often don’t have enough devices for multiple children to attend class simultaneously. The lack of laptops and Internet connection is forcing students to use smaller, less capable technology, like phones and tablets, to keep their students online.
This issue extends beyond individual households. Entire school districts are having issues getting a laptop or Chromebook for each student. The schools that need these computers the most, those in low-income areas, saw month-long delays to get an adequate number of laptops. This lost learning time can’t be made up and is a unique struggle for students in low-income school districts.
Low-Income Students Aren’t Continuing Higher Education
Covid-19 is disrupting the plans of college students as well. According to the US’ Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), almost 100,000 fewer graduating high schoolers applied for free financial aid during the Covid-19 pandemic. The cost of earning a college education is a bigger burden on those from low-income families. The US Census Bureau documented that students from families making less than $75,000 annually were twice as likely not to return for the next semester or even begin their college education after the pandemic began.
These students are looking for sparse work to help their families make ends meet, something their wealthier peers don’t have to worry about. These increases in hardships will be felt in four years when fewer low-income students are receiving their bachelor’s degrees.
How Tech Can Help End Inequalities
Education is frequently seen as the best way to increase the outcomes of people in low-income areas. The highest paying jobs often require, at minimum, an associate’s degree. Students across the world need access to the right tools to obtain degrees and improve the living conditions in their community. One-for-one companies, like Toms, are helping people in impoverished communities around the world get basic essential to a better life but are doing little to invest in education.
Tech companies need to find ways to increase access to education in developing countries, but increasing technological tools can only help education so much. Online classrooms during Covid-19 were hardly perfect because many teachers were new to the format. As educators learn from the transition to online learning, they will develop new pedagogies that are tailored to online learning. Organizations donating technology to schools in emerging nations can implement new teaching strategies to increase the effectiveness of their efforts.
Tech Will Speed Up Development of Developing Nations
The advent of satellite technology and mobile networks increases the speed at which high-speed Internet is becoming available in extremely remote and impoverished communities. Satellites remove the need for infrastructure, which takes years of planning and construction to complete; satellites dramatically decrease the time it takes to deliver basic Internet access. Aid organizations will be able to deliver life-altering education through virtual sessions using these new satellite connections.
Increased Internet access will give people access to schooling and other social services that weren’t previously available. This will give young people in these areas access to the myriad free learning options and even access to the cheapest online schools to learn new skills and bring value to their hometowns.
Efforts For Educational Equality Need To Be Increased
Educators and social service organizations will need to work to prevent the progress towards education equality from deteriorating as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The negative effects already being noticed today will take years to correct in areas that can’t afford to fall even further behind.