With the Covid-19 pandemic having a significant impact both globally and personally, it is important to recognise the areas that are still impacted by the remnants of what happened during this time, principally, education.
Sustainable development goals
As part of the 2023 Sustainable Development Goals and raising awareness of them, this article focuses on the goal of Quality Education, which is to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’. More specific targets include free primary education for boys and girls by 2030 and equal access for all men and women to ‘affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university’.
Whilst this has been a consistently improving goal over the years since its inception, the recent global Covid-19 pandemic has severely impacted the quality of education given to all students, with 147 million children missing over half of in-person instruction in 2020-2021 and 24 million learners possibly never returning to school from pre-primary to university level.
What impact did COVID-19 have on teaching?
After the initial lockdown in March 2020, many universities were unable to adapt quickly to the immediate closures, with many being wholly unprepared for the global situation. This manifested in not only a lack of access to teachers, faculty and peers but also what was needed for online learning, such as devices, internet access and electricity. This further exposed and showed the inequality in higher education with people from troubled economic backgrounds being significantly adversely affected. Research also found that the quality of teaching was reduced due to a lack of IT awareness in lecturers, no previous experience teaching in such a way, technical issues etc.
Another key impact of the pandemic was on the economic stability of the UK, with inflation rates rising to 5.1% in November 2021 and unemployment reaching 5% in November 2022. This led to increased anxiety among university students regarding the economic crisis, particularly final-year students. A study with Queens’ and first-year Oxford students found that 78.9% of Queen’s students and 50.4% of Oxford students worried about the long-term impact on their academic and job prospects, and many also questioned their plans to stay at university altogether. Research by female academics, early career researchers and PhD students were the most vulnerable regarding job placements and stability.
Mental health impact
An important impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on university students was regarding mental health. Overloaded with homework and demotivated by the inability to have direct contact with peers and faculty increased feelings of anxiety and stress, as well as the increased social isolation caused by remaining in student accommodation during this time. A study also came to the conclusion that the impact on female students has been more acute, with them developing higher levels of fear and anxiety during this time.
As a student myself, I can personally attest to the significant impact online learning can not only have on your academic performance but also your mental and social health and ability, with isolation being one of the chief things that I worried about. Issues such as that and the reduced physical teaching time still to this day have and have had an unprecedented impact on not only mine but many of my fellow students’ enjoyment of university and its experience.
Overall, many studies conducted over the last couple of years in the middle and wake of Covid-19 have found there was a significant negative impact on education. In line with the UN’s goals, I feel it's important that as the major pandemic restrictions come to an end, it is once again important to bring the focus back to students, and allow people from all backgrounds; economic, social and ethnic to complete an education that sets each person up for a better future and better prospects in an ever-changing world.