The World Bank nominated the Lebanese crisis as one of the top three most severe financial and economic crisis episodes globally since the mid-nineteenth century. As the crisis deepens, so do its effects on the level of education in the country.
The crisis started in late 2019 followed by the global pandemic, the worldwide lockdown, and then the Beirut blast in August 2020. These factors posed many challenges to online education, and led to the collapse of the country, but the Lebanese government has yet to implement a practical rescue plan.
Despite the country’s collapse, Lebanese parents are giving it their all to ensure that their children will at least acquire their right to education while dealing with power cuts, lack of internet, and a depreciation of the Lebanese lira that exceeds 90 percent of its worth.
Despite all the challenges and risks that parents are putting their children through, a new school contractors movement is demanding to end the school year. If granted, this will affect the education level of a whole new generation.
In-person vs. online education
Widespread fear and anger from parents and teachers followed the Ministry of Higher Education’s decision to start this educational year in person instead of virtually. Their anger is completely justified in the face of a lose-lose situation.
Around three months following the academic year’s start, some schools had to close because new COVID-19 cases were being detected in classrooms. In addition to that, the country is now also facing a new wave of the virus, and multiple cases of the new Omicron variant were detected in Lebanon.
School students should continue studying online because no one can monitor their safety regarding COVID-19 precautions—kids in specific require intensive supervision. Meanwhile, university students should switch to in-person classes to ensure that they receive all the practical education needed.
Despite the dangers of COVID-19 among younger students, there is no doubt that the quality of education received is significantly reduced when courses are being conducted—and that young students are having trouble focusing.
“When I started with the kids I teach, the older kid already had a good base, so having him study online was less complicated as he knew all the basics,” said Kamar Awali, a private tutor. “So it was not hard to catch him up.”
“But his little sister was not even in school yet, and trying to have her listen to online sessions was very hard,” she continued. “I was concerned about how to get her to understand the basics and want to listen to online sessions with her school teacher.”
She added that when the younger child started the in-person education, her behavior changed. She started studying and became more enthusiastic about it.
In-person education in schools enables young students to better interact with teachers and other children, essential for social and emotional development. It also provides children with structure, better support if they’re struggling with education, and reinforcement to focus on learning. If children miss out on the essential in their foundation years of education, they would have trouble learning—and accepting online teaching.
A generation at risk
Whether online or in-person, it is the government that needs to study the tradeoff, take action, and ensure an entire generation of children receive their education. Lebanese children deserve to have a proper life with basic human rights—like food, education, health care, water services and more.
This same generation has been studying virtually for two years in a country where schools, and the general infrastructure of the country, were not practically prepared for such a major transition. As a result, schools were not able to teach their whole curriculum to students. Beyond learning itself, the education crisis will also affect the job market in the near future.
The country needs to launch a new curriculum immediately, one that ensures giving students the quality of education needed to get the skills and knowledge required for the future job market. Without a solid foundation of critical thinking and communication skills learned through a solid educational system, the development and economic growth of the entire country is at risk.