Canceled exams, massive dropping out of school, wearing a mask in class, distance learning: for a year, the school has shown its strengths and weaknesses

On March 12, 2020, the federal government’s decision to close all schools in the country is indeed truly historic. Classes will remain closed for more than two months, before reopening very gradually from mid-May only.

For Belgium, such an interruption is unheard of! During the Second World War, faced with the German invasion of May 10, 1940, schools also had to suddenly close their doors. But they had reopened on June 3 already …

As in many crises, this pandemic will have acted for the French-speaking school as a revealer of its flaws, but also of its strengths … while forcing it to show an inventiveness of which it should keep certain benefits. to come up.

“Even if there were a few initiatives here and there, what this crisis revealed as the main weakness is that the school was not at all prepared for digital education. a lack of use of this tool “, analyzes Michel Bettens, the secretary general of the Federation of independent subsidized free establishments (Felsi).

“The strength of the school, on the other hand, is that it was able to demonstrate an impressive capacity for reaction. We all found ourselves overnight with tools that we did not know and with which we finally managed to do something … “, he smiles today.

From the second pandemic wave last fall, teachers and students of the 2nd and 3rd levels of secondary school will indeed be subject to a “hybridization of courses”, namely a split between 50% of lessons in class and 50% of lessons. remotely.

Everyone will then be forced to learn (very quickly) to use different digital platforms, either to prepare their lessons or to communicate with their students for some. Or do research and do work for others. In short, so many practices that should logically remain in the future, even when the pandemic is over.

According to some teachers, this hybridization also had another merit: for weeks, they were required to work with class groups reduced by half, which enabled them to help students more. students in difficulty. Much better than normal when they are in front of their full class.

“Even if it is desired, this return to a 100% face-to-face teaching is now apprehended by the teachers who tomorrow will have to once again tie these two groups of students who sometimes have evolved differently”, decrypts Natacha Duroisin, teacher at the UMons teacher training school.

Throughout these crazy twelve months, the University of Mons has carried out several studies to take the pulse of teachers in Wallonia and Brussels in order to analyze how they have adapted their teaching to the pandemic crisis, but also their way of using digital tools or absorbing the delays accumulated by the students during the first confinement.

And in the end, what this health crisis will have demonstrated is the central, capital role played by teachers and schools for the younger generations.

While we imagined them very happy to be able to slow down, we saw, after barely a few months of hybridization, many adolescents express – sometimes supporting petitions! – their dismay with regard to these distance courses, the lack of contact with their teachers and classmates.

“What this distress shows is that in reality, before being a place of learning, the school is above all a place of socialization”, insists Natacha Duroisin. “The social learning that we do there is therefore just as important, if not more perhaps, than school learning.”

More than the possible delays, it is in fact the psychological damage of this semi-confinement among adolescents that is of concern to more and more youth specialists today.

Fortunately, their ordeal will soon be over. The 3rd and 4th secondary will indeed return to their school benches 100% face-to-face from March 29. Their 5th and 6th year seniors will follow them back from Easter vacation on April 19.

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