How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect education? The National Science Foundation is funding several projects focused on the impact of distance learning on education and the widening gap in inequality.
The transition to distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic was the beginning of a large-scale experiment in the Indian education system. By March 2020, educators, managers, and policymakers needed to find new ways to keep students safe and healthy while minimizing learning losses. Distance education has solved difficult problems in practical science and technology classes. But have these efforts worked?
The National Science Foundation has allocated more than $ 200 million to cover 1,200 grants. Many are intended to study how COVID-19 affected kindergartens, especially through graduate education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Some projects focus on the transition from face-to-face education to distance learning. For example, technology and internet issues have been found to prevent about one in six STEM undergraduates from learning. Other groups have seen how pandemics highlight and exacerbate existing inequality, including reduced Internet access in rural areas and an imbalanced increase in learning losses for low-income and minority students.
Some projects are also investigating how stressors such as housing, diet, and lack of childcare affect a student’s mental health. Much of this work is to identify, characterize, and quantify the negative effects of a pandemic, but research can also identify approaches that worked well during these unpredictable times. In such cases, educators used pandemics to engage students in real-time microbiology research. Another project uses a pandemic as a case study to create a high school lesson plan for an infectious disease epidemic.