Dealing with the Residual Effects of the Pandemic on Educational Inequality
Through two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and multiple waves of infections, education equity (or more specifically, educational inequity) has been a topic of much focus. The shutdown of schools and other academic institutions has resulted in a massive gap in access to education between white students and minorities. This wise decision to fight the COVID-19 outbreak has not been without repercussions for the educational system.
According to a report released by McKinsey & Company, the Hispanic, Black, and Indigenous communities in the U.S. have been especially hard-hit these past two years. According to the report, white students were about one to three months behind where they otherwise would’ve been in their academics, while Black students lagged three to five months. During the pandemic, most students had faced various obstacles in their education and in other aspects of their daily lives. Whether it was worrying about the spread of the COVID-19 virus or the effects of the fluctuating economy, difficulties have arisen in myriad areas. These struggles seemed to be amplified for students of color, whose average academic performances reflect greater challenges and inequity that has been ingrained within our educational system.
A report by the Department of Education supports the idea that during the pandemic, “students of color [were] still far likelier than their white peers to attend schools that have fewer resources in settings that are less safe.” This is largely driven by the income disparity between white and minority families, which often results in minority neighborhoods having less money to spend on school supplies that allow for a learning-conducive environment online. What exacerbates this issue is that often, minority families could not afford to replace the extra help and afterschool resources offered at school. This includes during the pandemic when low-income families were hit even harder. Many students may not have had access to the proper technology, textbooks, or other resources needed in the classroom to thrive in an online environment, either. This wide gap in education has had devastating consequences for minority students during this time.
This is a big issue that doesn’t have an easy fix. To work towards closing this gap means dealing with external factors from the educational system. This includes investing more in mental health programs, especially for students of color that may be facing a higher rate of stress or anxiety as a response to pandemic inequity. Additionally, making sure that enough funds are going into educational programs that will catch students up outside of school and tutoring programs is essential. This includes spreading and using free tutoring and educational programs, such as Khan Academy and Schoolhouse. Khan Academy is a resource that provides its users with numerous videos, articles, and practice questions on many topics, including K-12 math, AP subjects, SAT practice, and more. Schoolhouse is another company that incorporates aspects of Khan Academy with a more interactive program. This website allows users to attend sessions on a lot of topics that are taught by tutors. These programs alone go a long way in helping low-income students succeed in their academic careers.
These past few years have taught us that the most important issues often do not have simple solutions, but that working together to fix them is the most effective answer. Educational inequity has been a major societal problem that requires significant strides to make progress in fighting against it. This includes making resources more affordable and increasing accessibility to various programs that can assist isolated minority students. I’ll leave you with a quote by Lao Tzu: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” We’ve begun the journey but in order to change an unfair system for the better, we need to work together to continue after that first step.
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