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A collaborative article of a French and a Brazilian student 

Governments and Schools: Have governments taken the appropriate steps towards long-distance education?

Written by: João Victor Costa and Andre Reis Silva

From: Brazil and France

Edited by: Luana Mayer

Since March 2020, the world has changed in a significant way. We all know the story by now: the coronavirus spread rapidly, killing thousands, and thus people were ordered to stay at home to prevent the spread of the virus. Such meant students were forced to stay inside their houses rather than go to school. With the absence of in-person classes, governments took steps for students to study remotely, some better than others. In this article, we will be taking a look at Chile and Brazil, comparing what the governments did to make remote education possible and if it was enough.

Let’s start in Brazil. By the beginning of 2021, schools were open with 30% of their capacity. After a few weeks, the government even upgraded the capacity to 50%, which was a major step forward. But, to stop the virus, the governor declared a “holiday” so people would stay home. This turned out to be a terrible idea since the population went to the beach, amusement parks, etc. Therefore, the virus spread even quicker, and the schools shut down again. After a month of lockdown, the government started reopening things, and schools were allowed with 30% capacity. Following the July vacation, it was decided that schools would be allowed to have 100% of their capacity back (obviously with all the biosecurity measures). 

But what do we think about these measures? Well, at the beginning of the year, it was perfect. The number of cases was decreasing and looking good. But soon, the people who left São Paulo for Christmas and New Year’s Day and got COVID-19 were now showing their symptoms, and everything shut down again, which was, obviously, the right thing to do. During the “holiday” in January 2020, people left their houses and made the situation even worse. What should have happened was to name this “holiday” something else so people wouldn’t leave their houses. 

Just across the continent, in Chile, in January 2020, whilst governments were taking note of the severity of the virus and the coming crisis, the Chilean government developed an action plan for education during the pandemic. For the public school system, they created a platform called Aprendo en línea,  in which students could download hundreds of textbooks and study guides while learning remotely through the schools. For more rural areas where internet connection was not available, the government promised to distribute the same educational material, but in printed form, to over 3700 schools. Private schools, as the name suggests, handled matters privately. The only rule was that schools were not allowed to go back to in-person classes anytime soon. These rules remained in place for almost a year, until March 2, 2021, when schools were allowed to go back in person. This was allowed since teachers and school staff was being placed at the top of the vaccination priority list, along with nurses and the elderly. Vaccination started on February 3, thus giving enough time for teachers to be vaccinated.

It makes logical sense that these rules prevented the spread of the virus, with more people staying at home and preventing school gatherings. However, mandatory school closures went on for far longer than in almost any other country. Almost all countries in Europe started welcoming back their students between May and September of 2020. This obviously brought massive delays to education, as a majority of Chilean students completed 200 hours less school than in 2019, and the teachers union denounced the long amount of time students were forced to stay home, saying the curriculum was cut drastically. Thus, many experts say these measures cost the country greatly, and the effects will only be seen in a number of years.

A Collaborative article: Feature Story
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