On March 15th, Spain went into a country-wide lockdown to curb the high numbers of COVID-19 cases. Almost two months later, schools have still been closed.
These two months have drastically changed how teaching is done in Spain. Within a short period of time, schools — from kindergartens to universities — have been forced to move all their activities online.
“In the first week there was a lot of chaos,” Dolly Situmal Balani, a Singaporean mother of four, described her children’s situation a week after the lockdown. Her younger two children are currently studying in a private British school in Madrid. For her children, learning became a lot more independent. She tutors them when they are unable to understand some concepts.
Similarly, there was a lot of disorder in public schools. One particular public school in Madrid which teaches children from 12 to 18 years old had their online system brought down due to high traffic at the start of the quarantine. The system was their means of connecting with students online. Only about a month later, another replacement system was set up.
“The teachers had to figure out a way to be in contact with their students and teach them online,” said Rubén Iñigo, a teacher at the aforementioned public school. “There was no transition.”
Since the most convenient way for his students to access his classes was through Youtube, he pre-records his classes and uploads them. He then follows-up with his students on platforms such as Google hangouts or Zoom, a video conferencing software.
On the other hand, for a British-based academy in Madrid, the school closure was something they had “seen coming,” said Zuraida Zakari, a Singaporean tutor in the above mentioned academy. She mainly teaches children between 15 and 17. Within a few days after the closures, teachers were using internet platforms and were given ipads to give lessons at home.
Difficulties in adapting
Despite being quick in switching to online learning, getting all the students to adapt to the change in teaching methods has been a “different story” said Zuraida.
The complete move to e-learning demands more communication between the students and teachers. “Now it’s more than just (sic) Google Classroom, we have to use Zoom, apps on the iPad to teach and to workout texts with them,” said Zuraida.
Due to the independent nature of online learning, Dolly has to put aside a lot of time in tutoring and helping her younger children get used to the system. However, even for her, it can get stressful managing the e-learning tools. “I remember once, I couldn’t get into the Zoom application”, she said. “I started to burst out crying because he lost once (sic) class just like that.”
As a public school teacher, Rubén depends on information from the central administration of Spain on the curriculum of the students. Teachers are then free to develop it according to their ideas and teaching style. However, the lack of direction on the necessary online teaching methodologies from them have cost his students’ valuable learning time and quality.
“The students lose a lot of time just in the organisation of information,” Rubén said. “In the end, the ones that lose out the most are the students.”
Prolonged school closure leave many frustrated
As some parts of Spain move on to the next phase of the government’s four phase plan to return the country to a “new normal”, the community of Madrid remains in phase 0 due to failure to comply with the necessary requirements. This means a delay in the reopening of schools for certain levels, with imposed restrictions.
The extended school closures have left Dolly expressing her concerns. She is worried about the psychological impact on her children. “I hope schools open up fast,” she said. “(sic) Especially for teenage kids, they need to do a lot of sports to vent their frustrations.”
Natasha is a Singaporean freelance journalist based in Madrid. Follow her on Twitter (@XNatashaZaman) or Instagram (xNatashaZaman) for Spain-related happenings. /TISG