In March 2020, schools across the country began to close in response to the spread of COVID-19, which quickly developed into a global pandemic. As it became apparent that this would not be a short-term concern, these closures became building closures, not just school closures. The coronavirus has forced educators, students, and their families to quickly transition from in-person instruction to distance learning, with little time to prepare for this shift. Although education is a major domain of societal action in the modern world and “equality of educational opportunity”, which is a justice slogan, leads the public interest and academic research, the clear approach to education as a distinct sphere of justice, much of the educational and academic discussions focused on “inequality” or “gaps”, and the investigation of sense of justice among students, teachers, and parents, is a relatively new field of study that is growing considerably in recent decades. Following Jasso’s definition of the central questions that guide the investigation in the justice domain, our discussion in each of these sub-spheres is structured to deal with the “just”, the “actual”, and the “consequences” of injustice in their distribution, summarizing the theoretical discussion and empirical findings to best of our knowledge
There has always been a connection of sorts between education policy and issues of equality and social justice. Sometimes this is an overt relationship; other times it is more to do with unintended outcomes of policies that are socially unjust. Additional complexities in this relationship are provoked by tensions in a way that education policy work is sometimes conceived of; as being either instrumental or as being more socially located, unstable, and contradictory, tied into ‘enabling, organizing and coordinating social relations’. In instrumental educational policies, for example, those that concentrate on a narrow focus such as raising achievement through testing, issues of equality and social justice are often impacted but might not always be formally recognized by policymakers. In policies that are avowed attempts to promote social justice, some outcomes may be unanticipated, unexpected, and contradictory.
Every year, education systems in many countries are disrupted because of climate-change-related natural hazards and armed conflicts. But the world has not seen this level of disruption of education spread so uniformly since the Second World War. Most governments have opted to close schools for the legitimate public health aim of containing the spread of the viruses. But governments are still obligated to respect the right to education.
Responses to the COVID-19 crisis will vary depending on every education system’s capacity. In particular, they will depend on whether governments have robust emergency preparedness plans in place, whether technology is already fully embedded in the system, on internet availability within communities, availability of hard copies of learning material, and ensuring adequate working conditions for teachers and education staff.
What Educators Are Asking For?
We also want to stress the range of specific needs educators brought up in this survey. Educators wanted recommendations for online resources and platforms. They wanted emotional support for students and educators alike. They wanted materials on the intersections of COVID-19 and social justice. Educators asked for best practices for distance learning. They asked for physical and printable resources for students without online access. They asked for information they could send families about necessities and resources for families trying to do their best to take on the role of educator in the household. Below, you will find links to resources that address these asks.
Resources to Share with Students
Teaching Tolerance has a bank of resources that can be adapted for a take-home or online learning. Their Student Text Library has more than 500 texts (including readings, read-aloud, images, and videos), filtered by grade level, subject, and social justice topic. Our film kits include student-friendly documentaries and discussion guides. For copyright reasons, some of these texts and films require an account to access—but anyone can create a free account, whether an educator or a caregiver. Educators are welcome to create class accounts and share the login and password with students or to save texts as PDFs and email them to students or upload them to a password-protected course management system like Canvas or Blackboard.
The Country can Pursue Education Justice Grow from the crisis by Build stronger connections with families; Shift focus to ensure trauma-informed practices and social-emotional learning; Implement stronger wraparound services, such as a mentor to support each family; and Rethink current assessment practices, such as standardized testing.
The Country can Pursue Education Justice in the Upcoming School Year by Curricular Planning like allow educators to spend time in development teams discussing curricular changes and preparing for the next school year; and Social/Emotional Supports like increase in response to intervention and other programs that support students’ social and emotional well-being; Policy Responses like maintaining fair, clear, and consistent expectations across districts and within states
The National Education Association has been working to ensure that our member’s voices are heard as we work through this pandemic. The member leaders from the ‘Leaders for Just Schools program’ are particularly equipped to promote equitable practices in schools across the country. The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented amount of unique challenges that we will likely feel the effects of for years to come. To ensure that we continue to meet the needs of our public school stakeholders, we must begin to consider options to respond to the challenges that this crisis has created. As we explore those options, we must also develop answers to questions that we have never had to answer before. There is still so much that we do not know; however, what we do know is that if we get answers to those questions through a lens of equity, not only will we create the best environments for teaching and learning, but we will also grow stronger and improve during the process.
- Social-Emotional Learning Should Be Priority During COVID-19 Crisis. (April 2020). NEA Today. Retrieved from neatoday.org/2020/04/15/social-emotional-learning-during-covid/.
- Community Schools. (2019). NEA. Retrieved from nea.org/home/66157.htm.
Author: Ms. Sweta Kumari