Covid-19: Students embrace ‘absolute minimum’ approach to learning after disrupted years

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The principal of Hutt Valley High School says extended periods of homeschooling in recent years have resulted in some students doing the bare minimum to obtain the qualifications they need.
Photo: 123RF

From lack of motivation to increased cell phone dependence, high schools are counting the cost of the pandemic.

At Hutt Valley High School, students and teachers told RNZ that nearly three years of lockdown, home scheduling and other measures had made them see the value of face-to-face contact and think twice about the amount of assessment by the Commission.

The school’s senior students, Diana Galloway and Max Webb, said they’ve struggled with motivation in recent years.

“Since we didn’t learn a lot face-to-face, I didn’t really push myself, which meant my work ethic was only going downhill, so it made it very difficult to do all my studies and make sure I was on track.” sat,” said Diana.

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Both students said they will not take any exams this year.

“I chose not to take exams. I think one thing the pandemic has taught me is that enough is enough,” said Max.

“Although my academic level has remained the same, this year I have mainly focused on getting by, getting through, getting the bare minimum to get to university.”

One of the arts school principals, Anna Flaherty, said the cumulative toll on teen motivation was obvious.

“There’s a bit of dragging with their feet,” she said.

“As a globe and as a country, we started out like this was a sprint, you know, and then it somehow turned into this kind of long-distance cross-country thing, so the effect of everything that was going on, that was the biggest shift I’ve seen in kids.”

But Flaherty said the pandemic had brought some positive changes.

Teachers and students valued the face-to-face contact more, she said, and did less scrutiny by the Commission.

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Gym and health school principal Mark Oates said students needed more help with homeschooling than expected.

“In our seniors, we definitely notice that they’re probably not that organized. We’ve been giving a lot of deadlines postponement,” he said.

“We’ve tried to make it a lot easier and more manageable for students and even then in many cases they have the [ball] – especially our seniors.”

Oates said another problem was that teens had developed a much greater reliance on phones and similar devices in recent years.

“We really tried to change that culture [so] that when students come to class, there are no cell phones in the classroom,” he said.

“The need to always have a device… it’s just become such a habit for them.”

The school’s principal, Denise Johnson, said it was using homeschooling during lockdowns and also because mold had rendered some classrooms unusable last year.

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“Students have sometimes lost connection with school due to a lot of home schooling,” she said.

“That’s something we’ll have to struggle with again next year. I think that’s the most important thing. You have a school for the social sense of a school, for a community to come together and it’s been a little bit disjointed.”

She said the achievement hadn’t suffered, but many students were clearly doing the bare minimum to get the qualifications they needed.

However, attendance had fallen slightly.

“Our attendance wasn’t too bad, but definitely lower than before the pandemic. There was a time when kids said, ‘well, I’ll just go online and I don’t have to come all the way to school,'” she said.

“So it’s been lower and that’s going to have to be reset next year. But it’s also proven that there are things that can be done that hybrid way and online.”

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