My Latest thinking on the pandemic

Dr. David Willows, the Advancement Director at the International School of Brussels writes in this week’s AAIE (Association for the Advancement of International Education) that the pandemic may have dramatically shifted what families are looking for in schools. This 2-year, once-in-a-century crisis has made us reevaluate what is important in our lives. That includes K-12 schooling. Parents and students are asking themselves are the long hours, stress and work that typically define a “high-powered” international school worth it. Of course, much of what K-12 schools and especially secondary schools do is driven by the expectations and admission requirements of universities. However, I sense, like Dr. Willows does, that the pandemic has pushed the discussion further to schools moving away from traditional subjects, individualizing education and for schools to make the learning experiences more relevant to our daily lives. With the individualization comes a focus on well-being and helping young people find their niche in our school communities and the global community.

This graphic from the McKinsey Report shows executives see a muted long-term recovery (A1)

Willows refers to the June 2020 McKinsey Report analyzing the global economy and national economies. My takeaway from reading the summary of the report is that it will be a long road to recovery and for international schools, it may mean that it will take longer to get back to enrollment figures from the start of the 2019-2020 school year.

Former TIS Director Kevin Glass, now head of the Atlanta International School was featured in this week’s AAIE briefing. He broke down the latest CDC Report “COVID Trends Among Persons Aged 0-24 Years in the USA from March to December, 2020“. The report shows the following:

  • The highest risk group to get infected are 18-24 year olds, 15% higher than even adults. That does not bode well for in-person, university study.
  • Children 17 years old and younger are less susceptible than adults. High School students are 78% less likely to get infected than adults. Middle School students 55% of the risk of adults and Elementary School students 40% of the risk of adults.
  • Community transmission is the same or even less in communities with on-campus learning versus virtual learning. This sounds counterintuitive but the hygiene discipline schools teach, lowers transmission rates. The CDC recommends closure of K-12 on-campus learning to be one of the last mitigation efforts to be implemented and schools reopening to be one of the first actions when lessening restrictions.
  • CDC strongly recommends elementary and middle schools to be open to on-campus learning, high schools with very strong protocols and universities to stay virtual.
  • The report of course highlights the limitations of the research and no studies were done with incident rates of school faculty and staff.
The latest figures from the WHO Tashkent Office

As you can see from the chart above published by the World Health Organization Tashkent office, the number of COVID cases in Uzbekistan and Tashkent remains low according to the official government statistics. Of course, no country is accurate with their statistics because not all cases are reported to hospitals or clinics. However, I think the relative trends are accurate with two spikes in July and September and a downward trend since then. TIS first reopened campus on October 5 and we stayed open through December 18 and into Winter Break. We are coming back to campus on Monday, January 25. I am busy with recruiting new teachers for next year and most of the people were are talking to are on Virtual Learning and/or lockdown in their countries. We are fortunate that the pandemic is quiet in Uzbekistan for the time being.

In reading news and research about COVID, many scientists and doctors are concerned about the variants of coronavirus that are appearing around the world. Early research shows some variants are more infectious (UK 2x as infectious) and research is focusing on the vaccines effectiveness against these variants. In Dr. Fauci’s first press conference as the lead advisor to the new Biden administration, he sounded optimistic that the vaccines do offer adequate protection against the variants and pharmaceutical companies are able to adjust vaccines as necessary to protect against new variants.

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