The Education Development Trust has penned recommendations for policymakers, striving the mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the education system and “prevent a lost learning generation”.
With more than 1.4bn learners – or 82.5% of students worldwide – now out of school and learning from home due to the lockdown, education ministers face difficult decisions regarding how to progress as the situation unfolds.
As governments move from urgent decision-making to longer-term crisis management, they must consider how to maintain and maximise learning, says the Trust, as education systems around the globe face severe and sustained disruption.
Based on their experience and the evidence to date, the Trust has penned nine key recommendations for policymakers “to mitigate the worst impacts of this global health crisis”. The recommendations are as follows:
- Promote quality in remote schooling – there are no universally accepted standards on what ‘quality’ means in remote learning, and nor are there clear guidelines on what criteria would make one option better than another. This is something the Trust is actively working on, calling for broader discussions on this topic.
- Do not neglect low-tech or no-tech solutions – the digital divide means technological solutions will not help a significant proportion of low-income students, as well as students who do not have access to the internet at home. The Trust points out that TV and radio broadcasting could be an affordable alternative, while the targeted distribution of materials such as textbooks could also help to alleviate this issue.
- Plan creative ways to maintain learner engagement – integrating interactive elements into remote learning strategies will help prevent learner fatigue while schools are closed indefinitely. Creative ways to enable feedback may help, along with prizes, competitions and use of social media or WhatsApp, where possible. Peer role models, or the use of influential community members to promote the importance of home-learning, could also be key strategies.
- Make teachers a focus of your response – while many education institutes are understandably prioritising students and parents, its important that teachers are not overlooked. Governments should continue to pay teachers but expectations regarding the important work that teachers will undertake during the crisis should also be made clear. Teachers are not only a potential resource to assist with remote learning; they will also have a critical role when schools reopen, so it’s crucial they stay motivated.
- Prioritise the most vulnerable – there must be a dedicated focus on protecting the most vulnerable from harm and targeting additional resources to support them. Supplementary support packages, targeted device distribution, safe spaces and community volunteers may all be necessary. Cross-sectoral approaches, such as working with health and social-care systems, will also be key to the success of this issue.
- Use all available human resources – dedicated teams support each function, and in a new, fragmented and remote world, there will be smart ways to use the teaching and wider education system workforce. This might include developing remote assessment guidance for learners or parents, using teachers in remote assessment hubs to mark work and respond to questions, redeploying supervisors or inspectors to review the resource delivery arrangements of specific schools, and tasking curriculum teams with the development of remote summative assessments and examinations.
- Embrace cross-sectoral solutions – gender-based programming that cross-sectoral approaches can have significant power, so the Trust urges policymakers to ask key questions as to how the education system can support the health system response (for example, teachers could be asked to contact parents or pupils to reinforce health messages) and how the health or social sectors can support the maintenance of learning.
- Help parents manage the home learning environment – it’s important to find ways to reduce the burden on parents – for example, by providing them with information about educational content on radio or television or giving advice on home learning and the structure of the day.
- Plan now for schools reopening and envision a more resilient system – schools will reopen. How and when this happens will vary, and closures may become periodic. But when this process begins, a host of challenges will remain, says the Trust. Remote learner engagement will be patchy even in systems with the best resources, making differentiation and catch-up solutions essential. There may also be an opportunity to harness the technology that has proven to work during the crisis to support the most vulnerable and learners with additional needs.
“We do not underestimate the scale of the challenges ahead,” said the Trust in a statement. “We need to work together to find creative, practical and evidence-based solutions, not only to achieve more effective remote schooling, but to mobilise the whole system to strengthen learning for all. We need all the creative endeavour available to achieve this. At Education Development Trust, we are ready to play our part. We hope these recommendations will prompt new thinking and spark new partnerships to help tackle this challenge head-on.”