According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 87 percent of children around the globe have seen their school close down in a bid to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic. That means about 1.5 billion students have to be homeschooled via online classes and distance learning initiatives.
To cope with the massive amount of free time and new educational needs required by the world's students during this pandemic, governments, non-profits and companies have started to step up to aid families in need.
"We cannot replace the presence of teachers and pedagogical relationships, but we have no choice and must do our best to support principals, teachers, parents and learners while ensuring their safety," says Lucia Azzolina, education minister, Italy, during a UNESCO online meeting to access the current state of education.
The tools leveraged by students today include free resources and content aimed at helping push educational opportunities forward despite stay-at-home orders. Companies such as the Age of Learning have offered schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic free home access to its online educational programs ABCmouse, Adventure Academy and ReadingIQ. The programs are available for students in preschool/pre-k, elementary school and middle school.
The non-profit organization Sesame Workshop has also launched its Caring for Each Other Initiative to provide families with free access to educational content from "Sesame Street." The streaming content includes animation covering healthy habits and resources that caregivers can use to spark learning in areas like reading, math and science.
"As families around the world adjust to their new realities, parents and caregivers are looking for help in creating new routines, staying healthy and fostering learning at home," reports Dr. Rosemarie Truglio, senior vice president, curriculum and content, Sesame Workshop. "At Sesame Workshop, we're here to support the caring adults in children's lives as they help their children navigate these challenging times."
Aside from straightforward educational content, parents are also looking for ways to keep their children engaged while spending so much time indoors. The kids' technology company, SuperAwesome, recently reported that traffic to children's digital services has increased by nearly 70 percent in the U.S. The report pointed to surges in streaming content, TV watching and video games as the most significant drivers for the uptick.
"Overall, kids are effectively going to be spending two-and-a-half to three-times more hours of the day in front of a digital screen than they historically would have," says Dylan Collins, chief executive officer, SuperAwesome, in a report covered by Axios.
SuperAwesome's report is backed up by new initiatives by streaming content providers to give families video content for free. Amazon recently unlocked 40 children's TV shows on its Prime service to allow any Amazon user to access the content for free. The online retail giant also announced a similar initiative to open up free audiobook streams of popular children's books on its Audible platform.
These free resources and the continued support of families around the world are vital as society continues to do its part to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic. While much of the world has stopped in the face of the virus, children's educational and emotional support needs are constant. To that end, leveraging the familiar faces of popular kids’ programming and remote educational opportunities will play a key role in ensuring there is a light at the end of the tunnel for today's youth.
"Education is a key answer to the crisis and to the rebuilding of our societies after," adds Jean-Michel Blanquer, Education Minister, France.
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