Without doubt the Covid-19 pandemic caused unprecedented disruption to early childhood education (ECE) across the globe, and many communities are still dealing with the consequences of school closures and reduced access to services. For ECE in countries in the Global South the effects of the pandemic are thought to be particularly severe, with the potential to cause significant learning losses and negative lifetime consequences (Lopez Boo, et al., 2020; Schady et al., 2023).
Within Peru there were stark pre-existing societal inequalities which were reflected in the education system where girls from indigenous, poorer families brought up in rural areas were much less likely to be able to access quality education than their peers from urban, affluent areas (Alcazar et al., 2020). Due to government restrictions during the pandemic, many ECE providers were mandatorily closed to in-person teaching for up to two years, while children were not permitted to leave the house for several months. The research I am conducting as part of my PhD seeks to explore how ECE across a variety of contexts in Peru was experienced under these conditions. Five distinct contexts were selected as part of a multiple case study research design in which teachers, parents and school leaders were interviewed. Findings from one of these case studies conducted at a private, rural school were presented at the 2023 BERA annual conference.
Following a thematic analysis based on the guidance of Braun and Clarke (2019) three overarching themes were developed.
- The resilience of teachers explores the personal and professional challenges faced by educators and how they responded with an appetite and desire to support children’s development and wellbeing. This is illustrated through two quotes from a teacher recalling an initial challenge she faced teaching a young child online and then later how she overcame it:
‘I had this student that stuck his forehead to the wall like this [pushes palm of hand to her head] during the whole class and I was calling him, and it was the first class, he didn’t want to see me, so I thought, oh man, this is going to be hard, right?’
‘To form this bond with a person, for me it is something that is particularly important, because otherwise they’re not gonna hear me. They’re not gonna listen to any of my words, right? So, uhm, it took a while. Sometimes I connected earlier, and they were there.’
- Family resilience outlines how parents came together to support the development of their children, becoming more involved in the learning process despite facing a variety of stressors and challenges. As one parent puts it:
‘But we were the ones who had a lot of work, my husband and I, not so much of ‘work work’, but of attending to them … we had to be aware of the classes, of the tasks, of washing the clothes, of seeing what we were going to cook, buying food.’
- The reported consequences on child development. Difficulties in social emotional development, physical development, academic progress, and issues related to screen time were reported as being problematic, as highlighted by the following comments made by teachers:
‘They have difficulty working together cooperatively, respecting each other.’
‘Their fine motor skills and their gross motor skills haven’t developed much.’
The implications of this case study reveal that when parents have time, motivation and access to technology, alongside teachers who are supported emotionally and practically, ECE can be adapted to an online, distance learning programme, bringing teachers and parents closer together in the process. However, even with these ‘optimal’ conditions where aspects of resilience are observed, child development is reported to be negatively impacted in comparison to previous cohorts.
‘When parents have time, motivation and access to technology, alongside teachers who are supported emotionally and practically, early career education can be adapted to an online, distance learning programme, bringing teachers and parents closer together in the process.’
The question, therefore, is what does this mean for the majority of children who were in contexts where parents didn’t have time and access to technology or teachers who were unable to interact with their students so easily? Were similar aspects of resilience able to be observed? And how severely has child development been affected? This case study has identified the need for further research to address these questions and to begin to put targeted interventions in place as part of a wider policy to support families and teachers.
Alcázar, L., Bullard, M., & Balarin, M. (2020). Poor education and precarious jobs in Peru: Understanding who is left behind and why. Southern Voice. https://southernvoice.org/poor-education-and-precarious-jobs-in-peru-understanding-who-is-left-behind-and-why/
Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2019). Reflecting on reflexive thematic analysis. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 11(4), 589–597. https://doi.org/10.1080/2159676X.2019.1628806
Lopez Boo, F., Behrman, J. R., & Vasquez, C. (2020). Economic costs of pre-primary program reductions due to COVID-19 pandemic. The Inter-American Development Bank. http://dx.doi.org/10.18235/0002630
Schady, N., Holla, A., Sabarwal, S., Silva, J., & Yi Chang, A. (2023). Collapse and recovery: How the COVID-19 pandemic eroded human capital and what to do about it. World Bank. http://hdl.handle.net/10986/39403