Results of the Covid-19 survey in Sardinia: distance learning and early school leaving

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Distance learning and early school leaving in schools in Sardinia

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted a number of critical issues in the Italian school system, some already known, some hidden, and has put the interrelationship between the school institution as a whole and the other levels of the system under the spotlight.

The sudden and compulsory transition from the traditional school system to distance learning, which was necessary in order to provide educational and training continuity for children and young people who have gone through the terrible experience of having their lives turned upside down in a very short period of time, has increased many of the weaknesses and inequalities already existing in our school system.

The problems of equity, unequal access to material and educational resources that hinder participation, those linked to an imperfect and incomplete training of teaching staff, the structural problems that historically block real progress in Italian schools, have been highlighted in all their dramatic extent and topicality by a strong educational fragility, made even more severe by the health crisis.

In spite of all the obstacles, the school was able to react with great responsiveness, revolutionising in a short period of time – albeit with many limitations and wide margins for improvement – a teaching system that had seemed frozen for several decades.

Research methods and context

The Eurispes research had to face the constraints of the difficult pandemic situation and, also, for this reason, it was decided to investigate the phenomenon through an agile survey instrument, using a quantitative methodology (structured and standardised questionnaire). This approach made it possible to reach a representative sample and offered the possibility of expanding the analysis and deepening the understanding of the surveyed phenomenon.

The questionnaire involved 694 Sardinian students (435 girls, i.e. 62.7% of the sample and 259 students, i.e. 37.3% of the total number of respondents) and was conducted in a selected number of 1st and 2nd-grade secondary schools.

The results of the Eurispes research

When asked about the regularity of their school attendance during the period of activation of the distance learning, almost two out of 10 students saw a decrease in their attendance at lessons in the new online mode. Only 50% of the sample said that their absences during distance learning remained unchanged compared to in-person attendance; about 30% said they had decreased, while 21% said they had increased. A more significant indicator of dropout is represented by the interruption of the school attendance that – in the first period of distance learning activation, during the lockdown – involved at least one or more pupils within the classes attended by the interviewed pupils: 36,4% of the sample declares that at least one or two of their classmates stopped attending the online lessons during the first pandemic phase and 21,2% indicates that several classmates stopped attending during the same period. During e- learning lessons, 26.8% of the students interviewed, almost three out of ten, with varying intensity and frequency, thought about dropping out of school: 12.2% thought about it sometimes, 10.4% often, while 4.2% were tempted only once.

Faced with all these difficulties, the school performance decreased for 23.8% of the pupils, did not change for 39.3%, while it even improved for 36.9%. The relationship with the teachers did not undergo any consequences in the perception of 53% of the students, but it changed for the worse because of distance learning for 23,8%, while 24,7% thought it improved. The quality of friendships has not been affected for 50.3% of the young people, 28.8% believe that distance learning has had a negative effect on them, while 20.9% noted a positive change. Above all, the state of mind was negatively affected by the lack of direct face to face relationships: 55.3% of the students revealed that the mediation of the screen had a negative influence on their psychological state, for 27.1% of the young people distance learning was neither a destabilising factor nor an improvement in their psychological condition, while 17.6% believed that it represented a positive circumstance. Relationships with family members had negative effects for 18% of the young people, they did not change for 56.1%, while they improved for 25.9%. As far as health is concerned, young people point out that distance learning represented a negative factor in 33,1% of the cases, they do not recognize it as a role able to shift their balance in 47,1% of the cases, while it had a favourable impact for 19,8% of the sample.

The opinions expressed by the interviewed young people about their e-learning school experience are fairly balanced around the two poles positive/negative (46,1% against 53,9%), although with differences marked by the different gradations of the proposed indicators: only 13,5% of Sardinian students the distance learning was clearly a positive experience, while for 32,6% it was “quite” positive. More than two out of ten (20.8%) expressed a decidedly negative evaluation and 33.1% experienced the online lessons with some discomfort.

Finally, the picture represented by the results of this survey shows a basically negative perception of distance learning by young people.

Still, in the perspective of resilience, the crisis can represent an opportunity for deep reflection, first of all on our “school culture”, on the way of understanding teaching, on the peripheral role assigned to students in learning processes and on the innovation processes that are necessary for schools to definitively enter the third millennium and align themselves, therefore, with the objectives that the 2030 Agenda sets for the education of conscious, competent and responsible citizens.

The full version of the study is available at the following link after registration at https://eurispes.eu/ricerca-rapporto/indagine-sul-covid-19-in-sardegna-la-dad-e-la-dispersione-scolastica/

This content is also available in: Italian

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