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The diminished opportunity to interact with classmates during the distance learning period made us feel very or quite lacking in this contact. This was revealed by Istat, which today presented the results of an interview with a large sample of students from primary and secondary schools in the school year 2020-2021.

Even in the case of lack of contact with classmates, there are some differences between Italian and foreign students. “The latter, even before the pandemic, had less relationships with their peers, and this may at least partly explain why they felt less contact with their peers, affecting 86.7% of Italian children and 79.8% of foreign peers – According to Istat, given the first five nationalities, the smallest proportion of children who have felt a lack of enough of their classmates is registered among Chinese students (67.2%), while the highest is among Albanians (85.5). %) “.
Direct contact with teachers was less lacking than with peers, although a large proportion of pupils in primary and secondary schools warned: 70% of Italians and 65.4% of foreigners. Compared to sharing time at school, all missed the most were school trips (indicated by 55.4%), followed by recreation (20.0%) and group work (13.1%). Even the smaller proportion of foreign children who felt the lack of recreation compared to Italians (14.6% for foreigners versus 20.4% for Italians) daily conditions in the classroom can be traced back to the less intense interactions they have with schoolmates.

Traveling is the activity that is missed the most

But what happened during the pandemic and with the social distancing from children’s relational world? Istat states: “The pandemic has generally had the effect of highlighting and exacerbating pre-existing gaps and fragility. It has already been previously emphasized that foreign children have less frequent relationships with peers (Istat, 2020). The survey conducted in 2021 confirms this peculiarity: even before the pandemic, 17.3% of foreign high school students never saw friends outside school hours against 5.8% of Italian students. Those who had less also lost less: the frequency with which friends are seen outside school hours compared to before the pandemic has fallen for 50.9% of Italian students and 46.2% of foreigners. The decline in direct relationships was offset by a significant increase in virtual contacts through the use of chat / social networks “.
Compared to before the pandemic, the use of chat / social networks increased for 69.9% of Italian students and for 64.1% of foreigners. The foreign children have therefore compensated a little less with phone calls / video calls and chat / social networks the physical distancing to friends. Phone calls and video calls have also increased dramatically with social distancing. Their participation increased for 65.7% of Italian children and for 53.3% for foreigners“.
There are many leisure activities that high school students lacked during the period of social distancing. Very few have lacked nothing (2.5% of Italians and 6.6% of foreigners). Traveling is the activity that the students in the primary and secondary schools lacked the most (51%), followed by the freedom to go out (49%), from attending “parties, dinners and aperitifs” (48%). For these latter activities, significant differences emerge between Italians and foreigners: 48.9% of Italians and 37.3% of foreigners were missing. The same happens for sports, as 42.9% of Italians and 35.7% of foreigners miss more and can be attributed to the fact that foreigners play sports less often and participate in fewer parties with friends. “Basically, the pandemic’s seemingly lower impact on the daily lives of foreign children outside of school hours compared to Italians could be linked to their lower social participation,” concludes Istat.

Foreigners are more aware of financial difficulties

Based on the subjective perception of children, which is influenced by several factors and does not necessarily respond to an objective situation, 4% of Italian high school students classify their families as very poor or very poor, against 11.3% of foreigners. 86.3% of Italians and 84.1% of foreigners are placed in the intermediate state “neither rich nor poor”. On the other hand, 9.7% of Italians and 4.5% of foreigners feel rich – enough or a lot. The proportion of those who perceive their families as fairly or very poor is higher among high school students (5.6%) than among younger children in primary schools (2.9%). In the south, the proportion of high school students who feel rich (7.2%) is more limited than in the Northeast (11.6%) and the northwest (10.4%).
“The pandemic has led to a perceived deterioration in the economic situation of 28.7% of Italians and 39.1% of foreigners – emphasizes Istat – the most affected are those who were already in difficulty: among those who perceived themselves as poor, the situation worsened in 68.5% of cases.The differences recorded for the first five countries of citizenship are significant: Romania, Albania, Morocco, China and the Philippines.The proportion of those who perceive their families as very or fairly poor , goes from 6.6% of Albanians to 17.9% of Moroccans, it is interesting to note that despite the fact that these are two communities that have long since settled in Italy, both characterized by migration routes in the name of stability, they reveal very different views on this aspect, based on the responses from the children, Chinese society (15.2% of poor or very poor families) and Filipino society (14.1% of children who perceive the family as poor) also to be in v difficulties. On the contrary, the perception of belonging to poor families for Romanian children is more limited (7.4%), but still higher than that recorded for Italians (4%). It is the Chinese children who have felt the worsening of the pandemic to a greater extent: for 57.5%, the economic situation has worsened, compared with 39.1% of the average for foreigners and 28.7% of Italians.

School leaders’ point of view: loss of learning

Finally, the study also involved high school leaders to get an overall picture, integrated with their point of view, of the impact of distance learning during the pandemic period. “Most believe that children ‘shock’ in school and everyday life after the pandemic has punished learning, but only some students (63.4%), 29.8% believe that all students have been punished, and only 6.7% believes that the pandemic has not been punished, had negative effects on learning – emphasizes Istat – As for student engagement during DAD, 45.2% of leaders believe that children have spent less time studying, 44.4% on the same time and 10.4% more time.

Primary school leaders believe that children have spent less time studying by distance learning (48.2%) than in upper secondary school (41.7%). In this context, account must be taken of the major difficulties faced by younger children in the autonomous management of distance learning tools. “During the period of distance learning, leaders also had to deal with complaints from teachers who were put to the test by having to try completely new teaching tools and approaches. Only in 20% of the cases did they have no complaints from teachers about the students’ absence during distance learning.

The problem of absenteeism was much more felt in the South, where only 12.7% of leaders did not receive reports of student absenteeism from teachers, compared with 28.8% of school leaders in the Northeast. This problem was felt more by the high school teachers (85.5%) than the first ones (75.1%).

What to learn from the experience of distance learning

“Although the school administrators’ opinion of DAD is not entirely positive, it nevertheless seems that the greater use of technologies and telecommunications as a result of the pandemic is an experience to be appreciated – concludes Istat -. 31.5% of the leaders want part of the teaching to take place at a distance even after the pandemic. In this case, the differences at the territorial level are not relevant, with a share in favor of distance learning ranging from 28.1% in the Center to 33.6% in the Northwest. On the other hand, the differences between the leaders of primary and secondary schools are clear. Upper secondary school leaders are obviously more in favor of keeping some of the teaching at a distance: the proportion who assess it positively is 41.4% against 22.9% of upper secondary school leaders. Of course, distance learning is certainly less complex to implement – especially if partially – in the case of older children who are autonomous in the handling of tools and in the performance of tasks. In general, however, it is desirable to make greater use of ‘digital materials, online libraries, films, etc.’. positive by 93.5% of managers; 85.6% would also maintain alternative forms of teaching such as inverted classrooms or ‘overturned classes’, which ensure the active participation of students and the improvement of digital resources and social networks ”.

“Social distancing has also led to the use of remote communication for a number of school activities such as conversations and counseling. In this case, this is an experience that is highly valued by school administrators, who in 82% of cases would like to hold conversations with parents online; 78.5% of the interviewees would also like to hold remote meetings and teaching colleges, and over 70% would like to strengthen the distance interaction between students and teachers, ”the department concludes.

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