July 28, 2021

Challenges for “new normal” life – part one

April 2020

Today, I got an email from my oldest daughter´s school with advice for parents of school children about how school might be restarted after the Corona “break”. Among various guidelines was a line which caught my attention along the lines of “the mix of regular school attendance and learning in a home based situation can be expected to last well into the next school year”. It was well hidden amongst guidelines and advice for travel to and from school and what to do and not to do when in school.

Even though I agree entirely with what was stated and reckon with a period of a good year or more of mixed-mode schooling it made me think about the unwritten but implicit consequences. (Mixed-mode schooling means that children might go into school once or twice a week but will be in a home-based learning situation otherwise.)

  • Mixed-mode schooling implies that an adult will need to be accessible to help smaller children during a home-learning situation.
  • Working adults in a family will need to rebalance necessary income-from-work and time-at-work with an additional time demand for home-schooling.
  • Grandparents or older adults will need to balance corona distancing with helping out if available at all.

I see a great danger of a rise in inequality:

  • Education inequality: if both parents cannot afford to reduce their work time and cannot afford extra help for home-schooling then the children will be at a significant disadvantage.
  • Gender inequality: who stays at home or reduces their work time? If this turns out to be more the females driven by, perhaps, persistent gender-based income inequality then we will, as a society, be going backwards.
  • Income-based inequality: Lower income groups will suffer disproportionately as they will be less able to afford outside help or to reduce their working hours.

So what can we do? In order to counter this potential increase in inequality, it will be essential to clearly assess and compensate the time required by working parents for home schooling:

  • Compensation in pay and pension contributions for working parents with dependent children.
  • Consider effects of work-time reduction for males and females and consider ways to encourage a fair balance.

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