Teacher aides have shown how indispensable they are in education
Teacher aides have shown how indispensable they are in education
Teacher aides have shown how indispensable they are in education

In May and June, teacher aides played a significant role in reopening schools that have been closed since March due to the coronavirus epidemic. Groups of children in schools were responsible for about half of all assistants who replaced absent teachers. They also helped with distance learning. One third of them ensured contact between the school and children who did not have access to the Internet in the spring. This follows from a survey conducted by the team of the People in Need Educational Program. Alexander Petrovich, the program methodologist, presented his results on Tuesday at an online conference with assistants from the best school.

About 24,000 teacher assistants work in schools, of which 800 took part in the survey. According to the survey, 53.5 percent of teacher and teacher assistants assisted in teaching in May and June. Then, due to anti-coronavirus measures, children were divided into permanent groups of up to 15 people. Attendance was not compulsory and schools were required to provide distance learning for students who stayed at home until the end of the school year. There was a lack of teachers in schools due to the division of children into small groups, and also due to the fact that some continued to teach from home.

According to Peter, the spring crisis has shown that school assistants are irreplaceable. Without them, getting the children back to school in the spring would have been harder than them, she said. During distance learning, she said, about 57 percent of the assistants were dedicated to supporting students in distance learning and teachers in preparing teaching materials. About 30 percent of these were dedicated to students without Internet access. According to Peter, they maintained active telephone contact with the students and distributed the necessary teaching materials by mailboxes. In particular, it would be more difficult for disadvantaged students to access distance learning if they were not eligible for support from assistants.

Therefore, she does not agree with the draft decree of the Ministry of Education, according to which the use of teacher assistants should be limited to children with certain disabilities. In September, the Ministry of Education issued a proposal that helpers should only help children with mental health problems, autism, or behavioral disorders. The authors argued that the use of assistants was ineffective for other students. The proposal was heavily criticized by supporters of coeducation in mainstream schools.

They described the changes as discriminatory, according to which they would be a de facto return to the situation in schools until 2016. The Ministry of Education said the proposal was formulated based on an analysis of the findings of the ministry, school inspectorates, schools and school counseling centers. According to the ministry, possible changes will still be discussed.

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