Zoom meeting (illustrative)
Zoom meeting (illustrative)Zoom

On Wednesday, the Education Ministry published a report detailing its conclusions from the period of the first lockdown this spring. The report focuses mainly on the impact the closure of schools had on teachers and staff, and in particular, on the issue of distance learning via technological means.

978 teachers were surveyed for the report, summarized by Channel 13 News, and the findings were disturbing in that they revealed that most teachers felt unprepared for the switch to distance learning, had never been trained in it, and failed to meet curriculum demands due to lockdown conditions.

Less than half of the teachers contacted said that they had undergone professional training in distance learning and teaching via digital means, at any point during the last two years (and presumably since the first lockdown as well). Most of the teachers – 80% - said that they would be interested in having the option of such training.

One of the consequences of their lack of experience was that only 37% of the teachers surveyed said that they had met curriculum targets during the lockdown. In addition, they stressed that whereas stronger students managed reasonably well despite the challenges inherent in distance learning, those who started out weak became weaker still, and that the format of digital learning either did not or did not sufficiently allow them to invest in such students, leaving many of them behind. This was particularly applicable to schools in the Arabic-speaking sector.

Teachers also noted that their students’ social interactions were negatively impacted while schools were shut, and that they were unable to provide any solution for this problem.

On a practical note, most teachers reported that they personally had the necessary equipment at home in order to conduct distance learning, although many of their schools did not. However, many students lacked both the equipment as well as quiet and privacy in order to conduct their studies from home, and parental support for distance learning was also not in abundance – here again, the issues arose particularly in the Arabic-speaking sector.

On a personal level, teachers described the challenges of trying to keep up with the curriculum while struggling to adapt to the changed conditions, which necessitated a greater investment of time on their part. What made this harder still for them was the perception on the part of students and their parents that they were “not working hard enough.”

Channel 13’s report did not cite findings related to the haredi sector, but previous studies have noted that the issues there have been even more pronounced, due to most homes lacking internet connection and students being forced to rely on classes given over the telephone. In addition, larger family size on average means that many families struggle to provide each student with telephone time, a quiet space to work in, and the necessary support when the inevitable issues arise.