While we’d like to think education is one area that is typically equal, it is not. In fact, many students worldwide are still unable to access the same learning material as their peers for various reasons. The pandemic highlighted the need for improved remote learning and uncovered the severe lack of equitable learning.
What Causes Inequity in the Education System?
Education is a fundamental human right for all children, yet too many are still left out. We know the leading causes of inequitable learning are:
- Internet connectivity – No connection or low bandwidth speeds
- Socioeconomic disparities
- Lack of adequate support and tools for teachers
Globally, 2 out of 3 students do not have access to the internet, making it an unequal playing field from the start. In the LAC (Latin America and the Caribbean) region, the pandemic and lack of connection affected the education of 170 million children who are still losing 50% of their learning time. In the US, 6 million students experience tech adoption barriers outside of availability and affordability.
There is also the issue of racial inequalities. Communities of color saw a disproportionately high rate of covid infection and death. This was on top of the long-standing problems around disadvantages, such as lack of access to resources and systematic discrimination, which contribute to a greater learning division.
In addition to the socioeconomic, racial, and connectivity challenges, teachers are not getting the support they need to do their job. As we know, the statistics around teachers’ mental health are overwhelming. Teachers are suffering from extreme pressure, lack of tools, and support. Many have decided to leave the teaching profession and switch careers altogether. The unmanageable stress is causing 63% of teachers to plan on leaving the teaching profession by 2027.
How to Provide Equal Learning Access for All Students
A holistic strategy will proactively bridge the learning divide and should focus on:
- Emotional support
- Available funding
- Improved access to learning
- Blended learning strategies
Emotional Support Creates More Engaged Learners
Educators know a student’s emotional state directly impacts their ability to learn. Student wellbeing is tied to many factors that affect learning outcomes, including motivation, attention, and memory. The correlation of these factors, along with learning outcomes, is found in every learning environment and evident in students who consistently show signs of stress or low mood. Teachers also suffer. There needs to be more focus on supporting teachers with the tools, training and mental health support they need to do their job. Many governments have noticed the poor mental health crisis amongst students and teachers and are making commitments to provide more training and monetary support.
Funding Is Available to Promote More Equitable Learning Environments
Funding has been a contention for most schools, but things are starting to look up. In 2022, President Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), stating $1 billion has been added to the act to establish safer and healthier learning environments. It includes support to create or improve current initiatives promoting safe, positive and inclusive learning environments for students and staff. It also supports preventing and responding to bullying, violence, and hate.
In March of this year, President Biden requested more by requesting $90 billion in discretionary budget authority for education in 2024, a $10.8 billion or 13.6% increase from the 2023 enacted level.
To support digital connections and remote learning, initiatives were also implemented to help supplement the cost of Internet services and technology. The Emergency Broadband Benefit created the Affordable Connectivity Program. It was offered as a relief during the pandemic but will continue to be delivered at a slightly reduced amount. However, of the 37 million households, only 9 million have applied for the benefit.
Technological Devices and Internet Access are Essential for Learners
Even though most Americans have smartphones, accessing technology at home for educational purposes is still relatively low. Only 54% of low-income Americans have a desktop or laptop at home, unlike 80% of people in the middle-income category.
This means many students rely on their smartphones for digital access. They aren’t a bad option but are still not the best for comprehensive learning. While they can help students learn basic search techniques or proper etiquette for commenting on a media thread, they’re not much use in the classroom beyond that. Small screens are hard on the eyes and the hands, causing fatigue.
To ensure all students receive similar opportunities, schools are finding ways to provide disadvantaged students with the right tools. Most districts have a 1:1 initiative to lend laptops or tablets to students whose families are within the low-income or poverty range. Some have a class set of devices that students can access throughout the school day. The technological disadvantages of lower-income Americans are not limited to their hardware.
There’s also a digital gap when it comes to Internet access. According to another PEW research study, 35% of lower-income families do not have an Internet connection at home, and 1 in 5 students consistently struggle to finish their homework because they don’t have a reliable connection.
Not having access to reliable internet puts students at a disadvantage when succeeding in school. To help meet these needs, schools are investing in dependable, fast broadband, but there is still room for improvement.
Only 38% of U.S. schools have reached the 1Mbps per student standard recommended by the FCC. However, providing students with the bandwidth to use the internet for educational purposes ensures that more students are given equal opportunities to succeed.
Education Technology Enables Flexible and Personalized Learning
With today’s digital advancements, some teachers fear losing the direct learning connection aspect of untethered teaching. However, a technological environment can significantly improve instruction, facilitate a safe and flexible learning environment, and provide educators with valuable information about individual students.
EdTech helps teachers manage their classrooms efficiently while keeping students safe and thriving. These solutions support a teacher in presenting slides, videos, and assignments at the front of the classroom. More specifically, classroom management solutions offer a way to guide learning journeys while being able to observe each student’s learning activity in real-time. Some even provide a view of digital behaviours and engagement through keyword detection to understand students better and identify those at risk. The right classroom management solution can enable flexible learning, which also helps teachers address a student’s unique abilities and allow them to keep their own pace of learning while staying on task.
Every student learns differently, at different speeds and comprehension levels. But with the right tools, teachers can differentiate instruction and ensure all students have equal opportunities to learn no matter their needs or abilities. A personalized learning approach allows students to play an active role in their learning with more engagement and motivation. This is where EdTech tools like Classroom really shine. While many solutions fully support a teacher’s ability to differentiate and personalize instruction for every single student, the real winners also offer the ability to keep the students safe and learning with mental health and wellbeing insights. All of this enhances teachers’ abilities and minimizes stress while successfully teaching students of all levels and needs.
Impero Provides Unique Solutions to Promote Equitable Learning in Schools
It’s important to understand that not all EdTech products have the same impact on equity in the classroom. Fortunately, some solutions are available and have proven to be the right tool for equitable learning. They empower the teacher and transform the classroom into a safe place where students can truly experience equitable education with equal opportunities to succeed.
Impero is a leading provider of evidence-based blended learning solutions for the proactive student-centered learning approach that increases productivity, success and safety.
- Impero Classroom keeps students on a productive and equal learning path.
- Impero Wellbeing helps monitor students’ online behaviour with advanced reporting.
- Impero ContentKeeper filters harmful content while allowing valuable content to be accessed anywhere and from any device.
For a complete proactive and holistic approach to bridging the learning divide, integrate Classroom with ContentKeeper and Wellbeing.
Impero Classroom helps teachers manage online learning and support flexible learning. It helps teachers stay in control and keep students focused. Teachers can easily identify students who are off task and remove distractions with the click of a button. They can access live screen monitoring and restrict browsing functionality. More importantly, Classroom can highlight students who are struggling with an assignment giving teachers access to insightful learning challenges and helping them get back on task.
Impero ContentKeeper is an award-winning innovative next-generation web filtering solution that provides real-time visibility, granular controls, and age-appropriate policy management on any device and web browser.
By adding Impero Wellbeing, teachers have access to a robust keyword detection and emotional status tool that helps identify vulnerable students while keeping everyone safe and on task.