The revised purpose of the school

The purpose of school is always a subject of heated debate, as are politics and religion. We hold our own experiences close to our hearts and often, naturally, have a hard time staying objective. However, we are increasingly called upon to do so, as children around the world have had very different school experiences since the start of the global pandemic.

Schools are no longer built exclusively on the basis of consistent and rigorous academic standards. On the contrary, out of necessity, schools have become a bastion of social services. It is essential that caregivers understand how – and why – today’s schools are different and how that difference can impact the future of today’s students.

Schools as social agencies

When the pandemic fell, schools became a new line of social defense. Academics have taken a back seat to more pressing issues such as hunger, mental illness and shelter insecurity. As Nick Melvoin, a member of the Los Angeles Unified School District board of directors, told me in an interview in 2020,

“When you have a district with over 18,000 homeless children where the district provides three meals a day for most of its children, it’s difficult. We have mental health clinics and wellness centers. There is an existing crisis in this country that schools are filling a lot of gaps and now the [pandemic] compose it. The challenge we face is that we are not funded to do all of this ”(Clavel, 2020).

When schools closed in the spring of 2020, they set to work serving the 50 million schoolchildren and their families. Principals knocked on doors, superintendents battled broadband companies, and teachers counseled tired, sick and hungry people. Schools have become community clinics approved for covid testing and vaccines.

This has shifted schools from a historic focus on academics to a priority focus on nutrition, mental health, medical care, and child care. They continue to fight increasing rates of drug use, homelessness and violence. Teaching and assessment have taken a back seat to meal delivery and Chromebooks.

Priority for schools shifted from teaching and assessment to power and broadband

Source: Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Schools also provide guaranteed child care so that our economy can function without interruption. The massive closure of schools in 2020 was an economic wake-up call: schools can no longer close. While this may help the economy, the health and safety of students and faculty continues to be an issue in buildings with old HVAC systems or inability to obtain PPE due to chain issues. supply.

The questions we must now consider are:

  • Do schools have the front-line capacity to make good social and academic offers?
  • What are the impacts if we continue to do this?
  • How will our students fare in a competitive global job market given this new reality?

Capacity and impacts

A perilous problem exacerbated by the changing role of schools is the continuing shortage of teachers. Special education, mathematics, science, primary education, foreign languages ​​and English are the six main areas of shortage, leading to an increase in the number of cases for existing teachers, thus amplifying the likelihood of ” continuous burnout (Loughlin, 2021). In fact, several schools across the country have had to close classrooms due to a lack of teachers and / or substitutes (Gecker, 2021).

The stress of teaching has sparked a surge in retirements and quits fueled in many cases by tensions over health and safety, with 32% of the 2,690 responding to a National Education Association (NEA ) claiming that they were planning to quit the profession earlier than expected (Gecker, 2021). Florida alone needs 5,000 teachers immediately, as well as 4,000 additional positions for other school staff positions, according to Florida Education Agency president Andrew Spar (Stuart, 2021).

In a new twist, money isn’t the main issue with staff. Thanks to federal rescue funds, schools have the money to hire additional staff. The problem is, people don’t apply. Perhaps this is because teachers have not joined the profession to risk their health or be social workers (Gecker, 2021). The teachers are not trained in social work, nor are they licensed psychotherapists. Schools do not have the capacity for this level of vocational training. Asking teachers to take such training themselves would only exacerbate their already outrageous levels of student debt.

Ultimately, a teacher’s job description was drastically changed without their consent. Many have accepted this new professional reality because they adore children, but many others have fled, leaving the field seriously damaged.

A global economy

From my experiences abroad and through my objective as an expert in comparative international education, I can tell you that the schools that thrive do not equally address all the problems that society poses to them. Their path is education, and they stay there.

Photo by Jerry Wang on Unsplash

Many overseas schools thrive because they don’t have to deal with social issues

Source: Photo by Jerry Wang on Unsplash

The reality is that other countries continue to educate their children in a predominantly educational environment. Despite your take on the role of schools in the lives of families, with international peers meeting and exceeding rigorous academic standards and our schools responding to pressing social needs, our students probably may not be as prepared as they should be for succeed in a world of employment.

Remote and hybrid working is the new normal. Employers can use Zoom to interview applicants from the United States to Singapore, then Japan, then the United Kingdom. Which country best prepares its students for this new world of work?


The future will tell, but for me, I will continue to support my children’s learning at home in addition to school because I know that there are gaps in their education and that there may be have times when they do not have access to high quality teachers due to shortages. I will continue to learn the skills that students acquire abroad so that I can emulate these lessons here at home. I encourage you to do the same.

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