Debate Magazine

Home-schooling and the Digital Divide

Posted on the 21 January 2021 by Markwadsworth @Mark_Wadsworth

From the BBC:
Parents say they feel "deserted" having to home school during lockdown with a lack of access to computers... Bristol mother Edwina Ogu said home schooling four children with no computer during the first lockdown had been a "nightmare". The Department for Education (Dfe) has pledged to provide one million devices for schools and colleges.
Agreed. If your kids are over (say) seven years old, have a bedroom and a laptop or PC each, home-schooling is manageable. But plenty of people are not in this happy position. Halfway decent laptops or PCs cost £500 and up; internet is patchy in some areas; not all kids have their own bedroom etc.
There's actually a cheap and simple solution to this.  You can get a new TV with Freeview and internet capability for under £150. There are plenty of channels broadcasting complete crap during the day who can be taken off air until 3 in the afternoon. All we need is one channel for each school year up to age 14 broadcasting a standard curriculum from 9 until 3 with an hour for lunch. All the kids in the UK can watch the same channel. The TV teacher sets the homework - kids take their homework back to their actual school once a week and it gets dished out to be marked by their actual teachers.
I accept that different schools use different textbooks, but run with it. School teachers just have to keep tabs on what was covered in their subjects that day and be ready to field questions from their pupils, online, by phone or in person.
It gets a bit more complicated for age 15 to 16 when kids are doing GSCEs. But I'm sure that 99% of GSCEs are in less than twenty different subjects. If I understand the rules correctly, there will be relatively few subject clashes and it might only need half a dozen more channels.
Swtiching channels is no more difficult (conceputally) than switching classrooms. So after maths (which appears to be compulsory, not that you'd notice) which everybody watches on the main channel, the history pupils switch to the channel which is showing the history lesson; the geography kids pupils switch to the channel which is showing the geography lesson etc. After that, they all switch back to compulsory English Language (not that you'd notice that either) on the main channel.
Inevitably, there will still be timetable clashes for pupils doing unusual combinations (what's new) but as long as there are a couple of free periods each week and kids have halfway decent internet, they can use the 'catch up' function for that. If they don't have halfway decent internet, they'll just have to choose a workable combination of subjects.

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