Manitoba students struggle to overcome the pandemic’s impact on education, experts say – Winnipeg

The effects of the pandemic on education have been far-reaching, causing learning gaps, an overall lack of confidence and a lack of critical skills in students, according to the Sylvan Learning Center in Manitoba.

“We kind of assumed it would be like this, just seeing what our students were going through and the impacts of multiple periods of time being out of school,” said Nikki Goerz, director at the Sylvan Learning Centre.

Goerz says the impact has particularly been seen in kids who were living outside of Winnipeg.

“Kids not living in the city were often missing months or years, if people can believe it, of actually attending school. So we are going to be making up for those losses for probably a few more years still.”

She says the center is seeing challenges across all age groups from numeracy and reading struggles in younger kids to a lack of academic habits and confidence in high school students and the challenges can be attributed to the pandemic.

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“They don’t know how to study. They don’t know what an exam looks like, and some of them are even missing things like time management skills because the expectations were different (during) COVID,” Goerz added.

“Our high school students, you know, just the transition to higher expectations and things that weren’t in place over COVID to help mitigate the effect. They still have to do them later on in life.”

Click to play video: 'High school seniors discuss learning gaps during COVID'

High school seniors discuss learning gaps during COVID

Goerz says while the impacts can be seen across all age groups, the one that seemed to struggle the most was early elementary kids.

“Those are just foundational skills that due to absence and school closure and the difficulties of teaching young kids from home and everything that comes with that, we saw that there were just a lot of foundational skills that weren’t able to be developed for a lots of students.”

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She says the center saw a lot of challenges for students in grades eight and nine and the transition into high school was hard for a lot of students this year as well as last.

After a bumpy start to the 2022-23 school year, Maples Collegiate principal Scott Shier says they managed to close learning gaps faster than they thought.

“I think our graduates this year are more prepared than maybe graduates in the past because of all the things that they went through, whether it was online learning, whether it was in-person every second day.”

Despite those successes, Shier says they still struggled to convince and engage a growing minority of students into coming back to school Monday to Friday. “Their kind of reasoning is ‘Why do I need to be in school full time when I wasn’t during COVID.’”

Because of this, he says many of the students will be attending summer programs and some of the summer schools offered are already full.

Filling in the gaps of learning lost over the COVID-19 pandemic will take time but Goerz says students are on the right track.

“There’s going to be development of basic academic habits and skills that will probably still need to happen but we are on our way in the right direction, the less interruptions we can have, the better.”

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—with files from Global’s Rosanna Hempel

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