According to a family survey carried out between the close of 2020 and early last month, three-quarters (75.2 percent) of all urban state primary schools nationwide opted to combine face-to-face and virtual education at the start of the school year, while only 18.3 percent stuck by the traditional method of classrooms only. In 96.7 percent of the schools, social distancing was maintained by dividing the students into groups or bubbles.
The data stems from the report Modalidad de vuelta a clases en la escuela primaria ("Back to class in the primary school"), signed by the academics Melina Furman (Universidad de San Andrés), Víctor Volman and Federico Braga (both Observatorio Argentinos por la Educación). The report, which seeks to understand how families and schools are adapting to health protocols and their pedagogic dynamics, was carried out before the April 19 emergency decree which restricted classroom education in some jurisdictions.
“The survey shows a mixed system to be the most extended format for primary schools. This return to classrooms, even if not yet complete, is crucial for pedagogic continuity and the emotional wellbeing of the kids,” explains Furman, adding: “There is still a debt pending to keep boosting that pedagogic continuity, especially for children who had a very intermittent link with schools in 2020.”
According to the results, only 15.9 percent of the urban state primary schools had their classrooms in use all five days of the working week while half (50.6 percent) had them open for four. Far lower percentages of schools had classroom attendance three (5.4 percent) or two days (7.5 percent) or one day (5.8 percent) a week.
When the classroom option was not available, there was no virtual schooling in a quarter (25.6 percent) of schools either while in nearly a half (48.8 percent) there were virtual classes when classrooms were not open.
Buenos Aires City has ratified that classroom education will continue this week after the Supreme Court ruling endorsing that method while “every child, every day” as promised by City Education Minister Soledad Acuña at the start of that district’s school year on February 17 is only true in three-quarters of the schools, according to official data to which PERFIL had access.
The data also show “evidence of asymmetries in hours with 46 percent of primary pupils attending class four hours a day and a third (33.3 percent) 2-4 hours. One school in nine (11 percent) gave its pupils two hours in class or less while only in seven percent of schools were there 4-6 hours of class while barely 2.5 percent of students topped six hours,” adds the report.
As for the bubbles for social distancing, most consisted of up to 15 pupils while 10.2 percent had 15-20 students.
Other key factors – only a third of schools have windows which may be opened while 20.3 percent have infrared thermometers and only 13.2 percent offer Internet.
City: money for inputs
Following denunciations by members of the local educational community in social networks, the City Education Ministry announced on May 13 that “school co-operatives will receive a sum of up 700,000 pesos to acquire elements of personal protection and other biosecurity inputs necessary to guarantee safe classroom education,” an announcement accompanied by “ratification” of classroom schooling throughout the district.
“The money will be granted in two quotas annually in May and September. The assignation will be calculated on the basis of how many students are matriculated in each school in 2021,” the Ministry explained, adding: “In the remainder of this month biosecurity inputs will continue to be delivered.”