COVID-19 and the exacerbation of educational inequalities in New Zealand
Keywords:COVID-19, School closures, Lockdown, Educational disparity, Digital divide
New Zealand’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was “to go fast and go hard”. This directive meant closing the borders, requiring returning New Zealanders to go into two-week self-isolation and, on 25 March 2020, putting the entire country into full lockdown. Schools had a short period of time to get ready to offer online learning. The move highlighted the country’s social, economic and educational divide. On television we were shown children with laptops working at home in their designer living rooms, talking to their teachers through Zoom with their parents hovering around supportively. However, this was not the reality for all. There are parts of the country with limited or no Internet connectivity. There are high poverty areas where households do not have basic materials, let alone computers or other devices suitable for use as learning platforms. A survey of schools showed that only half the schools in the country felt that their students would be able to access online learning. The Ministry of Education had to quickly organise the delivery of learning packs of printed materials to outlying areas, laptops and modems to low-income communities and set up a home-learning television channel with programmes in English and te reo M?ori (the indigenous language). Studies are now revealing that despite these efforts, and as the COVID-19 economic impacts begin to bite, New Zealand’s at-risk students have fallen even further behind. This article discusses these research findings and highlights what was learnt from the COVID-19 experience in order to begin to redress these disparities.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Prof C. Mutch
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