School closures are a common measure implemented by governments all around the world to fight the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. The trend towards remote and digital learning, which had already started before the pandemic, was greatly accelerated due to the inability of attending schools in person. Eurofound, the agency of the European Union for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, conducted a series of online surveys across the 27 member states of the European Union, in order to assess the level of satisfaction with remote learning and the support provided to it, wether by teachers or in terms of studying materials provided to students.
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The results have then been published in January in the report “Education, healthcare and housing: How access changed for children and families in 2020”. It was noted how online learning had increased across all levels of education during the pandemic, but in particular in early childhood education and care (ECEC), that is young people going through primary or secondary levels of education.
The survey round conducted in July 2020 asked parents and legal guardians what their opinion is regarding distance learning. Overall, most respondents were dissatisfied and were not keen on repeating the experience in the future. It is worth noting that most households reported having or being provided with the material means necessary to engage in distance learning, therefore the dissatisfaction reported is not due to a lack of means but rather an aversion towards distance learning in itself.
The same can be said of the support received by teachers. Except for when asked about support provided live, whose low score could be attributed to the rapid shift to distance learning, with little time for teachers to readjust, the responses to the other two questions were mostly positive.
It is clear by now that parents and guardians are dissatisfied with distance learning in itself or do not believe it to be a valid teaching method at such young ages.
The UNICEF report “COVID-19: Effects of School Closures on Foundational Skills and Promising Practices for Monitoring and Mitigating Learning Loss” published this year, includes a series of proposals and strategies to employ in order to strengthen the effectiveness of education systems, as they adapt to the new situation, often mixing distance learning with in-school teaching.
UNICEF’s report highlights four key points: focusing on foundational learning, as these are the most difficult to recover and can result in significant damage to children’s accumulated learning and future opportunities; collecting real-time measurements specific to the context of COVID-19 to enable real-time measurement of its specific effects and differentiate the possible factors affecting learning and other educational outcomes; promoting multiple delivery channels for better inclusivity, to ensure that quality learning is achieved, regardless of technological constraints; and reinforcing communication between teachers and parents/caregivers, as it is becoming increasingly clear that learning occurs both at school, in the classroom, in the community and at home.
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