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Education: Impovement needed for remote learning

Remote learning simply isn’t doing the job for many West Virginia students forced by COVID-19 to stay away from their classrooms. That has been painfully obvious to many educators, parents and school children for months.

State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch made it official last week. He told MetroNews “remote learning is not good for our children.”

Tens of thousands of them and their parents have had no choice in the matter. Either parents worried about COVID-19 have held them out of school or, in many cases, classrooms have been shut down for weeks at a time during the epidemic.

Only remote learning — finding ways to teach children at home, either through paper work sent to their residences or online — has been available as an alternative to classroom attendance.

“Actually, the more we’re finding out about it, I think it’s one of the worst things we can do,” Burch said last week. Then he put his finger on the problem: “As far as I’m concerned, we need to take advantage of every minute, every day we can have a live teacher with these children.”

What Burch said is as near to a truism as anything you are likely to hear about education. There simply is no substitute for face-to-face teaching.

Even very good remote teaching does not measure up for many children, though it needs to be noted that some older students seem to thrive in the online school world. For most, especially younger children, online work is inadequate, however.

And we suspect most educators would agree that what we have had available in West Virginia is far from “very good online teaching.”

Don’t blame the educators. Blame the fact that no one was prepared for COVID-19. Even if the quality of online learning had been top-notch, too many households lack convenient access to the internet.

For many reasons, the fault is neither that of teachers nor education administrators. We simply were not prepared or equipped as a state to educate at a distance.

So, what have we adult Mountain State residents learned? Simply this: COVID-19 may not be the last pandemic in our lifetimes. In many ways, not the least of which is education, we need to be prepared better for the next time.

Remote learning, as inadequate as it is, needs to be as good as we can make it during the next few years. Given the myriad ways in which it MUST be improved, tackling such a task should being now.

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