“Every day we receive a lot of information from multiple channels, every teacher has his own method, I feel that I cannot help my children.” For Adrien*, the father of Jur of Bern, the suffering is palpable. Like him, many parents find themselves at a loss when faced with the challenge of homeschooling, overwhelmed by the amount of work or the complexity of the tasks. Cantonal departments of public education can repeat that it is not about improvisation of teachers, simple monitoring of the work done is sometimes a headache.
While the confederation confirmed on Wednesday that the school year will indeed be confirmed, uncertainty remains over the duration of semi-containment. Some parents are afraid that they will not last long.
Lack of time, computer equipment or even technical and language skills: the mission of school supervision for parents is hindered by many factors. According to Julie, a 35-year-old academic from Vaud, “the programs offered are only realistic for parents who do not come to work or can take turns supporting their children”.
A young woman who also owns a business is taking care of her two children alone when she was asked to work at home. Julie is given a school program every day, “half of which is optional”, but takes about three hours a day for each child. “Since they are young, they need explanations, instructions and constant guidance in their tasks,” he explains. With my very demanding professional activity, I don’t have enough time to supervise them.
Since the schools closed on March 13, the authorities have slowed down: no new acquisitions or exams, only revisions. Still, the workload is too much in the eyes of Camille*, mother of a 4.5-year-old child, for whom the first year of school has been turned upside down. “The teacher puts writing preparation sheets in our mailbox and sends suggestions for optional activities every day, including weekends,” says the young Vaudoise. Although well-intentioned, I find this way of doing things invasive. However, he knows that this zeal also stems from the pressure of parents who fear that their child is not progressing at the expected pace.
In fact, the distance school is also new for the teachers, who had to adapt quickly, especially at the elementary level, where until now there was no online teaching structure. “Teachers are trying to do well and keep in touch with their students,” says Francesca Marchesini, president of the Geneva Pedagogical Society. They prefer enough work to avoid the fastest learners being idle; parents shouldn’t feel obligated to do everything.”
While it is now about “consolidating achievements”, the trade unionist notes the ingenuity of teachers who do not hesitate to experiment with new playful and creative teaching methods, such as videos or participatory texts. “Given the existing vagueness, the institution had to trust us; I hope that some initiatives will remain even after the crisis.”
As the Read and Write association recently pointed out, home education, which is a source of stress for most parents, is a “mission impossible” for illiterate people. This is the case of Adrien, father of two children aged 12 and 14. Every sixth adult in Switzerland has problems with reading and understanding simple text. “First we had to familiarize ourselves with the hardware and install various computer programs, which wasted time,” says Adrien. While her young son, who is in elementary school, receives letters home, the eldest has to upload documents online and communicate via chat. With a single home computer, the task quickly becomes complicated. “Fortunately, the school recently lent us one.”
For Adrien, the content of the French exercises remains the biggest challenge. “The fear of being wrong creates psychological pressure and a colossal waste of energy,” he confides. When I don’t understand, I have to trust only what my oldest son tells me. When failing at school, a teenager tries to motivate himself. “We quickly realized that he fell behind, he didn’t show us all his homework,” says the father of the family. Fortunately, contacts with teachers are possible, although they are highly sought after.
For his young son, the transition to high school is at stake today. The current situation causes him great frustration,” Adrien regrets. Three weeks after closing schools, you can feel the fatigue. “Wearth is coming on. While the kids need to be motivated a little bit more every day, it’s going to be very difficult to keep up the pace. At the end of the day, we’re all stiff.”
Fear of a “social gap”
The president of Famco (Geneva Federation of Associations of Masters of Orienteering) Julien Nicolet fears that the “social gap” is widening. “He believes that by putting the worksheets aside and giving instructions, the technique can work well if the students are comfortable with the material. On the other hand, failure is guaranteed with weaker students who sometimes lack autonomy, motivation, even equipment. It is not uncommon for students to work only on their cell phones.
In fact, it is a challenge for the teacher to maintain contact with the entire class. “Some students have been contacted by phone, but they do not always provide the required work, says Julien Nicolet. Teachers have to be behind them all the time to make sure no one is lifting.’
While “travel speed is still a long way from being achieved”, the union recently launched a wide-ranging consultation with teachers to identify flaws in the system. What if schools remained closed until the end of the year? “Of course we will meet the health requirements,” Julien Nicolet answers, but the result is unsatisfactory at the level of education. Only the best students advance.
* Assumed first name