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By Orik Ehren, age 13

All over the world the schools of hundreds of millions of students are closed due to the coronavirus. Their educations have been moved online or, in many cases, suspended entirely. Keeping students away from school does positively contribute to social distancing, which decreases the spread of COVID-19, but might have a long-lasting negative impact on their education.

Remote learning relies on students having solid internet connections and compatible devices. These are privileges that, according to the New York Times, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers do not have. For families that rely on school as a place to keep and feed their kids, the closures make day-to-day life more difficult. These combined disadvantages may leave many students unable to keep up with school — and may, on the other hand, push students with better access to materials forward.

This further widens the gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged in terms of success. However, these are only the short-term effects of completely remote learning. After the pandemic ends, every student will be missing virtually half a school year. Solutions to this vary from forcing students to repeat a grade to shortening breaks for subsequent years.

Despite this, the pandemic could bring positive changes to the world of education, as well. With traditional in-person schooling being impossible at this time, many are taking it upon themselves to innovate the ways in which learning can happen. Ultimately, the World Economic Forum reports, “Traditional in-person classroom learning will be complemented with new learning modalities—from live broadcasts to ‘educational influencers’ to virtual reality experiences.”

However, the New York Times reported that long before the pandemic took hold, an estimated 12 million kids already had issues completing homework as they did not have internet access at home. Without a drastic change to the availability of internet and compatible devices for kids everywhere, these success gaps will continue to widen.