Revitalisation of Child Education: Fighting Against Learning Loss

The emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic a year ago has changed many aspects of human life in various parts of the world. One aspect of life that is significantly affected is education, especially primary and secondary education. Imagine, children lose the opportunity to learn face to face and interact with teachers and their friends at school. Not to mention the wave after wave of Covid-19 which is increasingly vulnerable to children, making it difficult for formal educational institutions to function normally. Then, how do our children learn today? Have their basic rights to education been fulfilled during the pandemic?

Before answering the questions above and looking at the current state of our children’s education, it would be nice if everyone understood the basic right of children to education. Articles 28 and 29 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child expressly state that:[1]

“Every child has the right to a quality education. Primary education needs to be free, secondary education accessible and children encouraged to pursue education to the highest level possible … (Article 28)”

“Education needs to cultivate children’s character, talents, mental condition and physical abilities and teach them understanding, peace and gender equality and friendship between people, while respecting their own culture and that of others. Education needs to prepare children to become active citizens in a free society. (Article 29)”

National legal instruments also stipulate that children have the right to receive education and teaching in the context of personal development and intelligence level according to their interests and talents, as regulated in Article 9 of Law No. 23 of 2002 concerning Child Protection and its amendments (“Child Protection Law”). We need to see together that children have the right to education that hones their cognitive abilities and develops their character (affective aspect). Did these two things happen during a pandemic?

Learning Loss vs Distance Learning

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused the closure of more than 530,000 schools in Indonesia and forced 68 million Indonesian children to study outside the classroom.[2] School closures and the implementation of Distance Learning (PJJ) are required by the government through the Letter of the Minister of Education and Culture No. 4 of 2020 concerning the Implementation of Education Policies in the Emergency Period during the Spread of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) to cope with the spread of Covid-19. However, did you know that school closures and distance learning have a big impact on children’s education? The World Bank revealed findings which stated that Indonesian students lost 0.9 years or about 10 months of learning at school (learning loss) due to the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020.[3]This learning loss rate may continue to increase along with ongoing school closures and a decline in the effectiveness of online learning.

So, what are the dangers of learning loss faced by Indonesian children today? One of the cognitive aspects of children affected by learning loss is the ability to read (literacy loss). The World Bank’s research results show that around 70% of Indonesian children have scores below the minimum proficiency level for reading skills, in which the decline in the minimum proficiency level has reached 11 points for high school students due to school closures during the pandemic.[4]

However, it does not only affect the cognitive aspect, learning loss also has a significant impact on the dimensions of children’s character or affective aspects. Data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that virtual learning is riskier than face-to-face learning on the behavioral and mental development and emotional health of children and their parents.[5] For example, in face-to-face learning in PAUD (pre-primary school) for approximately 3 hours, the teacher will provide activities that aim to introduce positive habits in children. This is done during the golden time for character building and early childhood behavior, which is between 07.00-10.00 and 15.00-17.00.[6]

However, the difficulty of face-to-face learning forces children to study at home. As a result, parents who may be busy find it difficult to replace the role of PAUD in educating children during this golden time, for example, children are allowed to sleep and not do positive activities at crucial hours. Of course, the impact of the formation of children’s character and behavior because of this will not be felt now, but when children get older.

 

The government has tried to overcome the problem of learning loss through distance learning mechanisms, using online learning (organized formally by schools and non-formally by the edutech platform) and broadcasting learning programs on television such as “Learning from Home” which belongs to the Ministry of Education and Culture. However, distance learning cannot be the only solution to the problem of learning loss that our children face today. Why? There are 3 (three) main challenges that need to be addressed, namely:

  1. Limited Access and Facilities for Children who Live in 3T Zones (Frontier, Outermost, Disadvantaged Zones)

    UNICEF revealed data from a survey conducted in the last quarter of 2020 in 34 provinces and 247 districts/cities that more than half (57.3%) of households with children stated that the main problem with distance learning was internet accesst.[7] There are still many children who cannot access online learning from their homes, either because certain areas (especially the 3T Zones: Frontier, Outermost, Disadvantaged) do not yet have an adequate internet connection, signal or the inability of some middle-income families to purchase the required educational facilities such as data packages, computers and other devices. World Bank research shows that only 5% of the sample of households have internet access for online learning. In addition, 40.5% of teachers also reported that limited access to supporting tools was the main cause of online learning difficulties. As a result, online learning in 3T zones is only implemented by 14% of teachers.[8] These data show the ineffectiveness of distance learning solutions to replace face-to-face formal learning.

  2. Digital Divide between Children, Teachers, and Parents

    The Ministry of Education and Culture revealed that 60% of teachers in Indonesia have not mastered Information and Communication Technology (ICT).[9] Sixty-seven percent (67%) of teachers admitted difficulties in operating digital devices (including using online learning platforms). .[10] The condition of technology difficulties among teachers will certainly hamper the online learning process. Not to mention, some parents complained about the online learning system because they felt very unfamiliar with technology even after hearing explanations about how to use and run certain applications.[11] This barrier to mastery of technology for teachers and parents has a negative impact because children lose assistance in accessing optimal online learning.

  3. Unmet Character Education for Children

    Despite limited access and the digital divide, distance learning methods can at least replace face-to-face learning to meet children’s educational needs. Unfortunately, distance learning cannot reach children’s character education needs such as the formation of positive behavior and mentality through interaction with people in their school environment. Learning loss in this aspect can have a very destructive impact if it is not immediately addressed because it involves the quality of human capital.


Sharing Stories with Children: Learning Experiences During a Pandemic*

The author invited a teenager to talk with him about learning experiences during the pandemic and opinions about current child education.[12]

Deril (14 years old) has just graduated from junior high school and has started doing online learning activities at his new high school. According to Deril, the online learning system has advantages and disadvantages. The advantage he feels is in terms of time, where after studying online he can immediately take a break. However, the drawback is that he often finds it difficult to focus and becomes more individualistic because there is no direct interaction with friends, for example for discussions about homework, group assignments, and more. So far, communication with friends is only done via online chat messenger, video calls or social media. Deril also told the obstacles experienced when learning online. The most frequent obstacles are internet connection problems and learning devices such as laptops/computers that experience technical problems when online classes are in progress.

Despite experiencing obstacles, Deril is still enthusiastic about doing online learning activities with the support of his parents both in terms of equipment and materials. In addition, Deril also said that non-academic activities at his school such as extracurricular, interest and hobby communities, school festivals are also held online so that children can still enjoy the fun of school days and increase their enthusiasm for learning.

At the end of the interview, Deril expressed his sadness at not being able to meet his new friends and teachers in person and see the new school environment. He hopes the pandemic will end soon and he can do a lot of activities at his new high school. Deril’s experience represents the feelings of all Indonesian children who look forward to the dynamics of a new school, learning in the classroom, and interacting with friends, teachers and other school members. Hopefully Deril and the other Indonesian children will be back in school soon!

Activating the Role of “Support System” in Child Education

Reflecting on the challenges of distance learning and the stories shared by Deril, it is very important to activate the role of the “support system” in child education to free our generation from the negative impact of learning loss. Who is this “support system”?

In child education, there are 3 parties whose roles are very important to ensure that children get optimal education, especially during the pandemic.

First Circle: Family (Parents). About a quarter of parents said they did not have the time and capacity to support their child with distance learning, while more than three quarters said they were concerned about learning loss. The emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic occurred at a time when Indonesia did not yet have digital infrastructure and human resources who mastered digital technology. This includes the willingness of parents to support children’s online learning. During this pandemic, parents are the only foundation for children in terms of education when formal educational institutions are unable to carry out their functions. Studies reveal that parents’ educational responsibilities towards their children are crucial during school closures as children tend to rely on parental assistance to access and complete their online learning. This is why it is important for parents to spend time accompanying their studies, helping their children with assignments, delivering materials and supervising their children while surfing the Internet. In addition, children’s character education must be actively carried out by parents for children during times of crisis like today.

Second Circle: Government. The role of the government is to provide access and adequate learning facilities to children and teachers throughout Indonesia. One of the things that has been done is to extend the policy of providing free internet quotas from September to November 2021. However, the government must ensure that certain areas have adequate internet connections, especially in 3T zones so that the provision of free quotas can be utilized optimally. In addition, the government must also provide massive training to teachers on the use of technology for online learning in order to help children and parents at home who have difficulty in the online learning process.

Third Circle: Private (Non-Formal Educational Institutions). By increasing the role of the edutech platform in providing access to online education for children, the burden on the government will definitely be reduced. Partnerships between the edutech platform and the government can be realized in various forms such as financing access to paid services on the edutech platform, training teachers in distributing lesson content digitally, adapting the national curriculum to edutech platform products, and many more.

The struggle against learning loss is indeed a steep road and is not easy to take, but with the spirit of providing the best education for children, we can hope to see a brighter day. We need to breathe a little sigh of relief because some schools are starting to reopen. Since September 6, 2021, around 39% of schools have reopened for face-to-face learning according to government regulations.[15] This limited face-to-face learning (PTM) is actually still facing a dilemma because it has created new clusters of Covid-19 for children in a number of areas, so its implementation is still being evaluated. However, this must be our spirit to continue fighting for the education of children during the pandemic. Believe me, education is a very valuable long term investment.

*This article contains an interview with a child and has been approved by the child and his parents for publication.


Writer: Patricia Cindy Andriani

Editor: Nadia Amani Alya
Translator: Clarissa Cita Magdalena

Reference:

[1] UNICEF Indonesia, “Konvensi Hak Anak: Versi Anak-Anak,” <Konvensi Hak Anak: Versi anak anak | UNICEF Indonesia> diakses pada tanggal 26 September 2021, pkl. 11.05 WIB.

[2] Noah Yarrow dan Riaz Bhardwaj, “Indonesia’s Education Technology During Covid-19 and Beyond,” World Bank Blogs, <Indonesia’s education technology during COVID-19 and beyond (worldbank.org)> diakses pada tanggal 26 September 2021, pkl. 12.38 WIB.

[3] CNN Indonesia, “Bank Dunia Soroti Learning Loss RI Akibat Pandemi,” <Bank Dunia Soroti Learning Loss RI Akibat Pandemi (cnnindonesia.com)> diakses pada tanggal 26 September 2021, pkl. 11.31 WIB.

[4] Noah Yarrow, Eema Masood, Rythia Afkar, Estimated Impacts of COVID-19 on Learning and Earning in Indonesia: How to Turn the Tide (Jakarta: World Bank, 2020), 7-8.

[5] Jessica Dickler, “Virtual School Resulted in ‘Significant’ Academic Learning Loss, Study Finds,” CNBC, <Learning loss from virtual school due to Covid is significant (cnbc.com)> diakses pada tanggal 26 September 2021, pkl. 13.11 WIB.

[6] Jawa Pos: Radar Solo, “Cegah Learning Loss, Stimulasi Anak Usia Dini Tetap Berjalan,” <Cegah Learning Loss, Stimulasi Anak Usia Dini Tetap Berjalan | Radar Solo (jawapos.com)> diakses pada tanggal 26 September 2021, pkl. 13.33 WIB.

[7] UNICEF, “Indonesia: After 18 Months of School Closure, Children Must Safely Resume Face-to-Face Learning As Soon As Possible,” <Indonesia: After 18 months of school closures, children must safely resume face-to-face learning as soon as possible – UNICEF/WHO> diakses pada tanggal 26 September 2021, pkl. 15.10 WIB.

[8] Noah Yarrow, Eema Masood, Rythia Afkar, Estimated Impacts of COVID-19 on Learning and Earning in Indonesia: How to Turn the Tide, 16-18.

[9] Merdeka.com. “60 Persen Guru di Indonesia Terbatas Kuasai Teknologi Informasi dan Komunikasi,” <60 Persen Guru di Indonesia Terbatas Kuasai Teknologi Informasi dan Komunikasi | merdeka.com> diakses pada tanggal 26 September 2021, pkl. 15.40 WIB.

[10] Noah Yarrow, Eema Masood, Rythia Afkar, Estimated Impacts of COVID-19 on Learning and Earning in Indonesia: How to Turn the Tide, 17.

[11] Kementerian Pendidikan, Kebudayaan, Riset dan Teknologi, Ayo Guru Berbagi, “Kesulitan dalam Pembelajaran Daring,” <GURU BERBAGI | Kesulitan dalam Pembelajaran Daring (kemdikbud.go.id)> diakses pada tanggal 26 September 2021, pkl. 15.52 WIB.

[12] Wawancara dengan Deril pada tanggal 25 September 2021.

[13] UNICEF, “Indonesia: After 18 Months of School Closure, Children Must Safely Resume Face-to-Face Learning As Soon As Possible.

[14] Eva Yi Hung Lau, Jian-Bin Li & Kerry Lee, (2021), Online Learning and Parent Satisfaction during COVID-19: Child Competence in Independent Learning as a Moderator, Early Education and Development, 32:6, 830-842.

[15] UNICEF, “Indonesia: After 18 Months of School Closure, Children Must Safely Resume Face-to-Face Learning As Soon As Possible.

Journal or Reports

Yarrow, Noah, Eema Masood, dan Rythia Afkar. Estimated Impacts of COVID-19 on Learning and Earning in Indonesia: How to Turn the Tide. Jakarta: World Bank, 2020.

Yi Hung Lau, Eva, Jian-Bin Li dan Kerry Lee. 2021. Online Learning and Parent Satisfaction during COVID-19: Child Competence in Independent Learning as a Moderator. Early Education and Development, 32:6, 830-842.

Articles

CNN Indonesia. “Bank Dunia Soroti Learning Loss RI Akibat Pandemi.” <Bank Dunia Soroti Learning Loss RI Akibat Pandemi (cnnindonesia.com)> Diakses pada tanggal 26 September 2021, pkl. 11.31 WIB.

Dickler, Jessica. “Virtual School Resulted in ‘Significant’ Academic Learning Loss, Study Finds.” CNBC. <Learning loss from virtual school due to Covid is significant (cnbc.com)> Diakses pada tanggal 26 September 2021, pkl. 13.11 WIB.

Jawa Pos: Radar Solo. “Cegah Learning Loss, Stimulasi Anak Usia Dini Tetap Berjalan.” <Cegah Learning Loss, Stimulasi Anak Usia Dini Tetap Berjalan | Radar Solo (jawapos.com)> Diakses pada tanggal 26 September 2021, pkl. 13.33 WIB.

Kementerian Pendidikan, Kebudayaan, Riset dan Teknologi, Ayo Guru Berbagi. “Kesulitan dalam Pembelajaran Daring.” <GURU BERBAGI | Kesulitan dalam Pembelajaran Daring (kemdikbud.go.id)> Diakses pada tanggal 26 September 2021, pkl. 15.52 WIB.

Merdeka.com. “60 Persen Guru di Indonesia Terbatas Kuasai Teknologi Informasi dan Komunikasi.” <60 Persen Guru di Indonesia Terbatas Kuasai Teknologi Informasi dan Komunikasi | merdeka.com> Diakses pada tanggal 26 September 2021, pkl. 15.40 WIB.

UNICEF. “Indonesia: After 18 Months of School Closure, Children Must Safely Resume Face-to-Face Learning As Soon As Possible.” <Indonesia: After 18 months of school closures, children must safely resume face-to-face learning as soon as possible – UNICEF/WHO> Diakses pada tanggal 26 September 2021, pkl. 15.10 WIB.

Yarrow, Noah dan Riaz Bhardwaj. “Indonesia’s Education Technology During Covid-19 and Beyond.” World Bank Blogs. <Indonesia’s education technology during COVID-19 and beyond (worldbank.org)> Diakses pada tanggal 26 September 2021, pkl. 12.38 WIB.

Laws

Republik Indonesia. Undang-Undang Nomor 35 Tahun 2014 tentang Perubahan atas Undang-Undang Nomor 23 Tahun 2002 tentang Perlindungan Anak. Lembaran Negara Tahun 2014 No. 297. Sekretariat Negara. Jakarta.

Republik Indonesia. Surat Edaran Menteri Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan Nomor 4 Tahun 2020 tentang Pelaksanaan Kebijakan Pendidikan dalam Masa Darurat Penyebaran Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19). Jakarta.

UNICEF Indonesia. “Konvensi Hak Anak: Versi Anak-Anak.” <Konvensi Hak Anak: Versi anak anak | UNICEF Indonesia> Diakses pada tanggal 26 September 2021, pkl. 11.05 WIB

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