Since March 2020, the National Educational System of Mexico had to emigrate, without much warning, to the virtual classroom. This measure has dealt a severe blow to all those involved: students, teachers, parents, and school officials, who have had to adapt their time and budgets for a ‘new normal.’ Which have been some consequences of Covid-19 in Mexican education?
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the problems of education in Mexico. Private schools have seen a marked reduction in their enrollment, while school dropouts are on the rise. This panorama forces organizations to adopt innovative solutions to solve and reverse the educational gap.
The digital divide in times of COVID-19
Internet adoption in Mexico has been slow, but steady. According to data from the National Survey on the Availability and Use of Information Technologies in Homes (ENDUTIH), in 2019 there were 80.6 million Internet users in Mexico. However, of these users, only 44.3% have their own computer, while only a little more than half of the Mexican households have Internet.
For their part, most schools in Mexico lacked an online learning platform. According to the PISA 2018 report, only 33.8% of principals claimed to have a support platform for online learning, while only one in five teachers had incentives to integrate digital devices into teaching.
In this scenario, in March 2020 the government of Mexico, through the Ministry of Public Education, announced the suspension of classes in all educational establishments in the country as a measure to reduce the spread of the SARS-CoV-19 coronavirus. Although this measure was only to be in effect for a few weeks, it had to be extended once the seriousness of the problem was understood. This situation forced both public and private schools to improvise to avoid losing the school year.
Yet in that hasty transition, the digital divide appeared as an untreated wound. Since 2013, Internet access is a constitutional right, enshrined in Article 6, but millions of Mexicans cannot enjoy this right yet. For the same reason, the right to education has been in trouble.
Which have been consequences of Covid-19 in Mexican education?
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has observed that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in Latin America. In the subregion, more than 154 million students have suffered the consequences of school closings, according to a UNICEF report based on UNESCO data. However, not everyone has been affected in the same way. Schools that were not prepared to transition to the digital world, as well as households with the lowest incomes, have been among the most affected, according to OECD analyzes.
The National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) shows the same trend for the country in the results of the Survey to Measure the Impact of COVID-19 (ECOVID-ED). Three out of four primary school students do not have a dedicated device for their classes and must share it with someone else, a situation that improves somewhat for secondary school students, where just over half share their devices for the class. At the upper and higher middle level, this situation is more favorable: more than 60% have a device for exclusive use.
The migration to the virtual classroom also meant an extra expense for many of the households. More than a quarter of households purchased smartphones and fixed internet service, while one in five households had to purchase furniture to ensure adequate study space, such as chairs, desks, and tables.
Despite the efforts of families and teachers, more than 738.4 thousand people did not complete the 2019-2020 school year. More than half of these people reported reasons related to COVID-19. The survey conducted by INEGI estimates that 2.3 million people between the ages of 3 and 29 did not enroll in the 2020-2021 school year due to the pandemic.
For reverting this trend, an innovative approach is needed.
Read also: Education and Technology in Latin America