When should schools reopen?

Schools across Europe have been closed for weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic. Teachers are trying to supply pupils with schoolwork and materials via the Internet, but conditions for learning at home vary greatly from household to household. An intense debate about how soon children should return to school and how health protection measures and education can be reconciled is unfolding in the media.

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L'Echo (BE) /

Let's be inventive

Schools should be reopened as soon as possible given the growing inequalities resulting from distance learning, L'Echo urges, and calls for creative solutions:

“Ways been sketched out for a gradual resumption of classes: preteaching, adapted schedules, alternating classes, lessons in small groups. ... Let's be creative! Let's combine the best solutions to get schools up and running again, if only in a limited scope. Apart from maximising learning capacities and playing a crucial social role, reopening schools would help in a collateral way to restart our economy.”

Capital (GR) /

Don't experiment with children

In Greece, pupils in the upper years are to go back to school as of 11 May. All others are to return in stages from 18 May. Capital sharply criticises this plan:

“What good will it do high school students to return for about 20 days before the end of the school year? ... Absolutely zero. And do all schools have the measures and resources in place to comply with the necessary hygiene and distancing rules? ... This is very doubtful. And there's another question: why the gradual return? Why, for example, doesn't everyone return on May 11th? If there is no problem, there's no reason for this gradual return. ... We can experiment with opening the market and resuming economic and social life. But not with the children.”

The Times (GB) /

Shorten the summer holidays

The corona crisis is the perfect chance to redesign the school calendar to the advantage of students, The Times suggests:

“Studies have long shown that pupils forget some of what they learn in the first half of the year because of our unusually long summer holidays. And it's poorer pupils who lag furthest behind by the time they return to school in September. ... Reducing the summer holidays from six weeks to four would still provide ample time for teachers and pupils to recuperate at the end of the academic year. ... But reforming the school calendar (at no extra cost) would be the greatest gift of all for future generations.”

republica.ro (RO) /

More school dropouts and illiterate children

In Romania schools are to remain closed until September. This carries the danger that many will be left behind, warns Mihaela Nabăr, the managing director of the Christian children's aid organisation World Vision Romania, on Republica.ro:

“All the children I've spoken to these days have told me that they want to go back to school. This is their greatest wish. But now that they have home schooling the gap between poor families and those with a higher income is growing wider and wider. Children from rural areas don't have access to online education because they don't have the infrastructure. This means they don't have access to the teacher, who can't check whether they're taking a holiday instead of doing their schoolwork. In the end we'll see an increase in the number of early school leavers and illiterate children.”