Why non-state education requires support in the current pandemic

By Alice Doorly, Global Schools Forum (GSF), a non-profit membership organisation working with non-state organisations in developing countries who are serving children from low-income backgrounds.

Image: Rising Academy Network

Since March, teachers from three non-state primary schools run by Peepul, serving low-income communities in south Delhi, have been attempting to reach over 1000 students who can no longer attend school during lockdown. Their challenge: to keep every child learning. Initially, only 55% of these children had access to a smartphone to receive lesson content and stay in touch with their teachers. By casting a wider net to neighbours and extended family, this was increased to 75% of students. But a quarter remain without easy access to learning materials, at risk of slipping through the cracks. Many from migrant families have left the city and returned to villages making them more difficult to track down. Even for those with a smartphone, difficulties abound. With incomes squeezed due to economic shut-down, parents who are small daily wage earners face a choice between purchasing mobile data for their child’s education or buying food for the coming days.

The challenges faced by these teachers and students reveal a glimpse of a story being replicated the world over in government and non-state schools. Discontinuing education during this period could severely impact children’s learning, yet tried and tested strategies for how to continue are in short supply. The education sector is in largely unchartered territory and non-state schools are no exception. Far from it – instead, they are grappling with risks to their survival that are testing their ability to operate through and beyond the Covid-19 crisis.

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Jane Bouvier: helping Roma children access their right to education

Jane is one of many champions being highlighted by the GEM Report in the run up to the launch of its 2020 publication on inclusion and education: All means all, due out 23 June. In their own way, and in multiple countries around the world, these champions are fighting for learner diversity to be celebrated, rather than ignored.

In Marseille in France, where Jane lives, the lives of Roma families living in slums is precarious. Children often do not attend school and families do not have access to basic health and housing services. The 2020 GEM Report out next month will show the extent to which many Roma children in different countries around the world find they are segregated off into different schools in some countries, excluded from mainstream systems because of their ‘difference’.

When Jane, a psychologist by training and a former school teacher, learned about their situation in France, she decided to help them get into school. In 2014, after two years of helping Rom children as a volunteer, she quit her job and founded an organization called L’Ecole au Present. Her organization provides support and guiding services to marginalized families on the process of enrolling their children in school, accessing free school meals, and following their children’s school development. Although she began by helping Roma families, nowadays she reaches all families in need of support, including asylum seekers and immigrants. She has gone from helping 40 children back in 2012 to 500 children today.

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Posted in Early childhood care and education, Inclusion, Learning, Literacy, Teachers, teaching | Leave a comment

Digital capacities and distance education in times of coronavirus. Insights from Latin America

By Nicolas Buchbinder, GEM Report Fellow

Due to the coronavirus, schools have closed their doors in almost the entirety of Latin America. This is a situation with no precedent in the region. Countries have implemented different policies to continue the academic year. Many are using paper materials, radio and TV, but the fact is that this formats are not able to capture a significant proportion of the content that is taught in schools for each grade. Online education is in this sense the most important tool, which many governments are providing. But just how far can this reach in the region? And how are we going to support teachers that were not prepared to teach online?

Sadly, we need to start thinking of this situation as a “new normal”. There is consistent evidence of the negative consequences of interruptions in academic activity on learning achievement. This implies that the better we do in ensuring academic continuity now, the smaller the remedial education efforts that will be needed later. Ministries of education must treat this with paramount importance, and the region is offering some great examples.

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Image: Matt Cooper

Teachers need curated and organized materials, courses, guidelines and protocols. Chile and Colombia have developed great, well-organised platforms with activities, lesson plans and multimedia resources that thoroughly cover the curriculum, which teachers can use easily.

Many are also providing pedagogical guidance for teachers to shift to distance education (see, for example, those created by Uruguay, Chile, and Costa Rica). Costa Rica has also provided teachers with specific protocols for using digital devices and virtual etiquette norms, which are very useful for teachers that are not used to work with ICT.

Mexico and Uruguay have established psychological assistance services for teachers. Furthermore, it is important to keep administrative mechanisms working: Colombia has adapted its system for creating teacher positions to work online and recruiting. Continue reading

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Flexible learning during Covid-19:  how to ensure quality higher education at a distance

By Michaela Martin and Uliana Furiv, respective lead and consultant working at the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning programme specialist on a project on flexible learning pathways.

The Covid-19 outbreak closed universities and other tertiary education institutions in 175 countries and communities, affecting over 220 million post-secondary students. While some institutions moved their classes to online and distance education platforms thanks to their pre-existing experience, many others struggled. In some countries, this lack of preparedness resulted in delays in moving the courses online; in others, governments have halted higher education completely for an indefinite period of time.

In 2018, the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP-UNESCO) launched a project to help guide countries identify policies and instruments that support flexible learning pathways (FLP) in higher education. The research included a stocktaking exercise of good practices in the field, an international survey, and eight in-depth country case studies to analyse factors for an effective implementation of flexible learning pathways. Many lessons can be drawn for the current context, now that distance learning is a key mode of education delivery, rather than just an add-on to face-to-face learning. 

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Image: Ivan Radic

India offered distance education as a major alternative mode of delivery long before the arrival of Covid-19. The country has more than 15 open universities and 110 Dual Mode Universities, which provide education through distance modes. For the period of Covid-19 outbreak, the government has also allowed top 100 India’s HEIs to provide fully online degrees. In addition, the government even integrated online learning in the New Education Policy currently under review. Continue reading

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Cristiane Cerdera: students need to be able to openly discuss sexual orientation, gender identity and expression in school

Cristiane is one of many champions being highlighted by the GEM Report in the run up to the launch of its 2020 publication on inclusion and education: All means all, due out 23 June. In their own way, and in multiple countries around the world, these champions are fighting for learner diversity to be celebrated, rather than ignored.

Cristiane is a high school teacher at Colégio Pedro II, a public and federally-funded mega school in Rio de Janeiro hosting 13,000 students. She runs a “gender lab” at the school where students can openly discuss issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and inclusion.

When Cristiane first started working at the school, partly due to the socio-political context, gender issues were not discussed either by students or by some of the teachers. All of that began to change in 2013 when Brazilian youth started to organize as a political movement and schools started paying attention to their needs.

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Posted in Equality, Gender, Inclusion, Latin America, LGBT, LGBTI, sexual diversity | 2 Comments

Looking at school sanitation in sub-Saharan Africa on Hand Hygiene Day

Hand hygiene is the one certain weapon we have against coronavirus. In high-income countries, as we wrote about this morning, multiple reports are emerging of teachers concerned that schools are going to re-open without sufficient hygiene management in place. In sub-Saharan African countries, however, children may be out of school for a while if hygiene management is the criterion for schools to re-open: only 53% schools have basic sanitation facilities and water.

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Image: GEM Report/Kate Holt

UNESCO just released a resource Paper on Preparing the Reopening of Schools, saying that the critical aspects around school reopening are timing, conditions and processes.  A newFramework for Opening Schools also produced by UNESCO, but also UNICEF, the World Bank and the World Food Programme says countries must “ensure conditions that reduce disease transmission, safeguard essential services and supplies and promote healthy behaviour. This includes access to soap and clean water for safe handwashing, procedures on when staff or students feel unwell, protocols on social distancing and good hygiene practices.” Just how feasible is this?

Many efforts are already underway in the region to meet these and similar pieces of advice on effective hygiene management issued by the WHO, including reported plans to disinfect every school nationwide in Nigeria before they re-open, for instance. Masks as well as hygiene kits are reportedly being distributed to all schools in Senegal prior to opening again in June as well. UNESCO’s Paper on Preparing the Reopening of Schools has further information from current practices about the most critical aspects around school reopening.

In South Africa, meanwhile, the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, announced that re-opening schools from June 1 was dependent on them being able to implement Covid-19 health and safety measures. NATU, the teacher union, however, has very little confidence they will manage this task. Currently only 78% of schools in the country have basic water facilities. Continue reading

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Back to school, back to normality? Dilemmas in high-income countries

There seemed no doubt when schools closed earlier this year that closures were a necessary response to the pandemic. The question is whether that reasoning has sufficiently subsided for the opening of school doors to be again acceptable. If groups of 10 people or more are being banned from assembling, how can classrooms of 15 students be allowed? If yesterday we were at risk of possible infection – and fatality – how, today, is it ok for students and teachers to group together in a school where social distancing is particularly hard to control? Policy makers, parents and teachers all have strong but conflicting views.

There are multiple approaches to opening schools in high-income countries at the moment. In Denmark and Norway, some schools and creches have already reopened. One cost-effective approach to the problem is to teach outside, something that Denmark is doing, as this eye-opening photo series shows. In Germany, the details of how schools will reopen are up to its 16 states to decide, but pupils in primary school are due to return to school in a staggered way, starting next week. France’s pre-primary schools are due to open on May 11 and other schools progressively from May 18.

In Australia, where schools are opening in New South Wales and Queensland, the staggered return will be handled differently by each school, with the hope that children will be able to go back full-time for the third term, which begins on July 20. The Government has said that families with multiple siblings should be prioritised and has suggested organising students by house colours, or alphabetically.

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Image: Pasco County Schools

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Posted in Disaster preparedness, emergencies, Out-of-school children, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments