This report, compiled for the Luohu Education Bureau of Shenzhen at the behest of Seadragon Education Company represents the individual perspective, reflections, and interpretation of one foreign teacher (B Clegg, 25 year old female English teacher from the UK) hereafter referred to as the FT. The finding contained within also included surveyed responses from anonymous local teachers in Luohu district collected through informal discussion and review.
The below report divides the epidemic period into two portions as regards teaching experience: period A refers to the online teaching period from February 2020 to early May of the same year. Period B refers to the offline, in-person teaching period following the return to school in May. Due to factors influencing the preparation of this report, data-collection has been performed retroactively, rather than concurrently, and thus allowance must be made for minor inaccuracies regarding dates, order of process, and particular details.
Impact of Covid-19 on Educational Experience
During epidemic period A online learning was implemented. SDE instructed its FTs to produce 2 videos per week from the beginning of March until mid-May, as per bureau requirements. These videos were short, generally approximately 20 minutes, and aimed to support students’ core learning with their main English teacher. During period B normal lesson plans and structures have resumed and the curriculum teaching has been completed in a timely fashion as per usual circumstances.
Levels of Change
In a typical educational structure, as seen in Shenzhen public middle school 东湖中学, the initial steps are made by the school: establishment of the online learning platform etc. Next teachers carry out preparation of materials, such as transferring lesson plans to online format. Finally students experience the educational shift in their reception of materials.
Personally during the epidemic period A online teaching my workload was significantly lightened. Per week for the period I produced 2 short pre-recorded videos and submitted them to SDE for review. These videos covered core topics following the curriculum and provided explanations of terms, phrases, and grammar. Listening and comprehension activities were included and homework set at the end. Weekly work time during period A averaged 6 hours of preparations and recording. On returning to school during period B I discovered students had not accessed more than the first couple of videos created, which was dispiriting but not surprising. This “lost” material was compensated through a series of revision lessons to cover necessary topics, as well as auxiliary materials such as worksheets and revision guides.
Experience Satisfaction Survery
|Teacher Perspective||Student Perspective|
Ultimately the online learning period was frustrating from a teaching experience perspective. Materials produced by the FT did not reach students as expected, access to the school-wide online lesson platform was not granted (due to anticipation of FT’s intermediate Chinese level not allowing for smooth use of the Chinese platform; this is an understandable and reasonable issue that could be resolved by demanding higher Chinese ability from future foreign staff). On the other hand, period A also required far less input from the majority of FTs than from local teachers, so overall satisfaction can be expected to fall within standard limits.
Potential Future Developments
What follows is a series of speculations on the part of the FT regarding possible structural, social, and societal shifts in education as a result of the epidemic period. During the epidemic period focus shifted from the very exam-centred learning process typically employed in Shenzhen schools to emphasising context-based learning and foundational aspects. While the same material has been covered during the period, I believe the shift in attitude and expectation has had an overall positive effect in student school-life balance, teaching experience, and psychological state. The decresed focus on exams has allowed for a relaxation of homeowkr load and pressure from teachers and management towards students. The external factor of parental pressure is not adddressed in this report due to insufficient data.
Having surveyed students and teachers in my school, I created the chart seen on the right. The shift in focus and demands across the four periods, including the speculative “post-epidemic” period reveals, I believe, a trend towards student welfare and concern for their psychological state in balance with exam pressure. Particularly for younger, non-exam year students.
Successes and Failures
- Material Covered
Despite time and activity constrictions, English, Maths, and Chinese departments all report completing Grade 7 curriculum on time.
- Shift in Expectation
Emphasis on students’ psychological welfare during period B has increased markedly and teachers and students feel the focus on exam results is less than previous years.
Both in school and from SDE the FT received appropriate notice of changes and sufficient direction to complete online teaching during period A.
- Physical and Psychological Impact
Students display clear signs of psychological damage from long-term isolation and uncertainty. Many students have also development problems with eyesight due to excessive time viewing screens during the online teaching period.
The epidemic period’s effects on student learning and teacher workload have been well-managed and kept to a minimum by both my school and SDE. On a personal level I have not been adversely affected and my students’ largely seem happy and well. Their learning has not been significantly disrupted, at least in English. From the perspective of a foreign teacher, the epidemic period has been successfully managed at all levels. More broadly I anticipate the next few years seeing gradual but definite change in China’s education system regarding values, expectations, and goal-setting.