Something which I believe we can all agree on is that the return to schools and universities is very atypical this year. In Spain, in which most schools are offering face to face classes, I dare to say that an unusually high number of students are thrilled to go back to school. I can suppose that the latter is a result of both being able to reintroduce themselves into a face-to-face system after months of online teaching and the opportunity to reunite with their friends. Saying it like this, it seems that all is rainbows and butterflies, but the “back to school season” during a pandemic is everything but that. It‘s proving to be very complicated, especially in some parts of the country.
Madrid is one of the Autonomous Communities which is facing the biggest issues. In the last two weeks, there have been 464 infected individuals by 100.000 people, which is a noticeable increase to the number of cases in the area. To be precise, the month of August in Madrid had a growth of 344% compared to the previous month. As a consequence, people are becoming increasingly worried. With the return to classes, there is a sector of the population who is extremely concerned about the situation: the parents. Worried strings of thought such as “What am I going to do if my son gets infected with the virus?” run through their heads constantly. Such could bring many problems for the parents since having a kid infected with coronavirus means that you would have to stay home for at least two weeks doing quarantine. The latter would translate into not being able to go to work for that period of time, taking into account the economic recession that has already taken place and is still going on.
As we can see, different issues arise with the return of children to face-to-face learning.
Right now, the maximum number of students allowed in a classroom is 20. With this change, the “Comisiones Obreras” (CC OO) (Workers’ commissions) estimated that the Iberian country needs 70.000 teachers to teach classrooms with this new capacity. This represents a big problem since the Ministry had previously calculated that the number of teachers needed would be 30.000, less than half the amount of teachers that would be needed to support this new face-to-face system according to the CC OO. In economic terms, this means that the government would have to spend approximately more 4.5 million euros. Moreover, there have been 9 provinces in Spain that have been allowing a higher number of students than the maximum permitted into the classes.
We cannot deny that the efficiency of the learning process is immensely higher in presential lessons compared to online learning at home. Nevertheless, the number and variety of problems don’t seem to be decreasing when it comes to the return of face-to-face classes. What should Spain do? Should the Autonomous Communities start thinking about returning to online classes or are the advantages of in-class learning still greater than its disadvantages?
I have very divergent opinions about the topic myself. I believe that in the beginning, we should try to get back to the face-to-face learning system and see how the situation evolves from there. If after the return to schools and universities, a high and increasing number of students start feeling the symptoms and being infected with the virus, closing these educational systems would be the best idea in my opinion.
Moreover, I think it’s important that each Autonomous Community tries to provide the better solution possible to that region taking into account that each one of the Communities is facing distinct problems within the same scope, at the same time that the authorities of the Autonomous Communities communicate well with each other in order to avoid conflict.