The Australian school system during the pandemic

After some weeks of online teaching, Australia is preparing to understand how to reintroduce students in schools.

In the Australian schools the first term, which is still ongoing, has been developed in a very different way as compared to other years (as in many countries in which the lockdown has affected school closure). The last weeks have been described by the New South Wales Teachers Federation as “one of the most difficult school terms for the profession in living memory”.

The federal education minister, Dan Tehan, is preparing a plan for the return of students in the second term of the school year. Tehan said that the modality in which the return will take place will vary based on the states and territories, considering the different needs of such a vast and heterogeneous country. The general criteria dictated by the central government is the need to provide a safe learning environment for the students, in order to allow the parents as well to start again with their working activities, stated the minister.

Rather than a massive return of the students to class, Tehan and the president of the New South Wales Teachers Federation, Angelo Gavrielatos, suggest a staggered approach. The proposal is to organise the return of certain classes, to later progressively extend the restoration of the teaching activities to the other classes too.

Until that moment, the lessons for the Australian kids will continue to be given online. Rebecca English, a professor at Queensland University of Technology’s faculty of education, highlights how in Australia, somehow, distance education has been put to test for some time already. Alice Spring's school of the air, that already in 1951 provided lessons via radio to the inhabitants of the rural areas of the country that were unable to reach school facilities, is famous.

The problems of the sudden passage from face-to-face teaching to online teaching, however, are still there. The most evident one is the inequality in the access to resources. Not all the families have the economic possibility to adapt to the participation to online classes, and not all the areas of the country are provided with the necessary infrastructures.