The pandemic operated in a scenario of inequality in many ways. Education was one of those areas where it deepened the existing gaps. This can be seen in preschool education , which had the most affected boys and girls from vulnerable households.

The pandemic and the difficulty in taking face-to-face classes produced learning gaps, reveals an unprecedented study in Chile, which indicates that children from Vulnerable households show a very diminished performance compared to previous generations, which is manifested in almost all areas, with the exception of the executive function.

There is also evidence of a lag in vocabulary, general development and significant socio-emotional , with a performance significantly lower than that achieved by an equivalent population in 2017.

The study developed by Fundación Educacional Choshuenco , Child Protection and Liguria Foundation , and executed by the Center for Longitudinal Studies and Surveys (CEEL) of the Catholic University , helps to better understand, from the perspective of learning and social-emotional well-being , the effect of the pandemic on vulnerable children during the 2020.

Niños de hogares vulnerables muestran un desempeño muy disminuido respecto de generaciones anteriores, lo que se manifiesta en casi todas las áreas, a excepción de la función ejecutiva, dice el estudio.

Children from vulnerable households show a greatly diminished performance compared to previous generations, which is manifested in almost all areas, with the exception of the executive function, says the study. (PATRICIO FUENTES Y./)

Developed between the 25 November and 23 from December 2020, considered 240 boys and girls from 3 to 4 years old, enrolled in seven MRI centers .

To estimate the effects, four instruments were applied to evaluate general development, breadth of vocabulary , executive and socio-emotional function . All of them have already been applied in the Longitudinal Survey of Early Childhood (ELPI), representative of the total population.

Worrisome figures

Prior to the pandemic, figures 2019 of the Undersecretariat of Early Childhood Education indicated that the coverage of Early Childhood Education in Chile reached 50%, that is, only half of the children and Girls of preschool age were enrolled in an establishment, whether state-funded kindergarten, public or private school / college.

Early childhood education that the science findings of brain development underscore, is very important in early childhood. Various studies show that the stimuli, learning and environment of this stage are the bases for the emotional well-being, social competence, cognitive skills , among other determining aspects for school performance, studies, work and even salary expectations.

However, during the pandemic thousands of children in initial education saw the process interrupted by the implementation of a distance education model. Complex alternative for most schools because they did not have the capacity or resources to respond to the unexpected demand.

The UC study is the first to objectively show the cost of that in more vulnerable segments. In relation to the area of ​​general development, the results indicate that the boys and girls evaluated on 2020, compared to similar boys and girls evaluated in the THE PI 2012 and ELPI 2017 , obtain a significantly lower average score.

David Bravo, director of the Centro de Estudios and Longitudinal Surveys (CEEL) of the Catholic University , indicates that there are no studies that have been able to be done to be able to measure what is happening not only in terms of going to classes, but also what happens to them in terms of the students’ competencies. “An important area to measure the cost of this entire pandemic year. This is the first measurement that is made at the school level and in early childhood ”, he indicates.

Regarding the language evaluation, the group evaluated on 2020 show significantly lower results with respect to the group evaluated in the three rounds of the ELPI (2012, 2012 Y 2017). When calculating the gap in that area, it is observed that those evaluated on 2020 have, on average, 8.5 points less when compared with those evaluated on 2010, 3.7 points less than those of 2012 and 3.8 points less than those of 2017.

Also, in language by further restricting the groups of comparison, considering for the ELPI 2017 only children and girls who live in communes defined as priority, the gap is 3.1 points, 4.0 points when the commune of residence is considered as a control, and 4.9 points when only those who attended kindergarten are considered at the time of being surveyed in ELPI 2017.

In the socio-emotional area, the children evaluated on 2020 presented results two significantly different from those evaluated in the last 2 rounds of the ELPI, accounting for greater presence of socio-emotional problems in the generation evaluated at the end of 2020.

At case of the differences for the executive function tests, the boys and girls evaluated on 2020, obtained significantly higher results compared to the children evaluated in the ELPI applied on 2017.

Impact

It was a suspicion that the boys and girls who could not attend their classes had losses in their development despite the support, he points out Alejandra Abufhele researcher at Center for Surveys and Longitudinal Studies and from Educational Justice Center , UC. What this work reveals are important effects “and when estimating with comparison groups, gaps are appreciated that are relevant and that will have repercussions on their development,” he highlights.

The Children were mostly at home with their parents or other caregivers, and it was thought that this confinement would not have such negative effects. But you have to think, Abufhele clarifies that it was a stress context for mothers and fathers, ” stress from online classes, from taking care of multiple things, also for children a lot of screen time and little social contact, which affected them. ”

Much scientific research supports how impacts the preschool education attendance in the brain development before the age of 5. Bravo explains that data from the ELPI survey shows that already at age 5 there are differences between vulnerable children and those who are not. “At that time the gaps are already settled and were reflected before entering the school o. The education in kindergartens for the most vulnerable children, if it is of quality, is decisive in their development and the pandemic hit these groups very hard, it is difficult to explain the magnitude. ”

For the Undersecretary of Early Childhood Education, María Jesús Honorato the study represents a great contribution when measuring in person the loss in linguistic and socio-emotional skills. Results that serve to focus the work forward. “It gives us a lot, and although a significant drop was predictable, when standardized it has enormous value to be able to show the data objectively”, says.

In early childhood each setback is more difficult to recover. For this reason, Bravo indicates, it is urgent to have a plan to recover the Effects of the pandemic in early childhood . “The study measures that and provides figures with the urgency that we have, showing that there may be strategies and that there is no standing idly by,” he says.

In that sense, the plan Chile Recover and Learn from the Ministry of Education, Honorato says, focuses on pre-language skills and learning.

If this situation continues and this year is experienced in the same conditions of suspension of classes in preschool education as in 2020, Bravo maintains, the differences are likely to increase. “It is a matter of looking at where and how children between 3 and 5 years old are experiencing the pandemic, those with the highest income will have the conditions and incentives at home, but others will have a negative impact.”

In those cases, Honorato details, in the kindergartens there are action plans. “The protocols are working and where they were applied there were no outbreaks. The kindergartens and nursery with these operating plans are protective environments ”.

It is important to mention, Abufhele indicates that although it would be ideal to keep kindergartens open, depending on sanitary conditions. “The message is not to open in spite of everything. If not, also safeguarding the care of teachers and students, open as much as possible and with all health protocols ”, he clarifies. And in those moments where it is not possible, he says, to maintain support for families with contact, material, and “the support that can be provided from the institutions, especially to the most vulnerable population.”

As Bravo underlines, the current conditions are an appeal to creativity with a sense of urgency of “how to constructively face the issue and how to react in the case of these most vulnerable families , because everything is amplified by the pandemic, with the big difference that it is much more difficult to recover everything that is lost before the age of 5 ”.

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