Centres of education around Europe are working outside the box to cater for students of all ages in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Klaudjo Kavaja walks us through the various methods adopted by governments and education systems to keep students on the learning curve.

The 2020 Coronavirus pandemic, which now scientists assume that may have started spreading since November – December 2019, posed a new challenge on how education systems would operate under this threat and the measures that countries took to stop the spread of the virus and flatten the curve of infections. Starting in March, most governments around the world took aggressive measures such as enacting quarantines, declaring national emergencies, banning mass gatherings, closing stores and businesses, and imposing curfews on the movements of cars and people. Schools and universities around the world were closed with almost eighty percent of students globally being out of school / classroom and with the lecturing moving into the digital space.

Out on their own

Distance or remote learning, through computers, tablets and smartphones with the use of the internet has a number of issues in regards to access. Families with a lower socioeconomic status may not have access to the internet, or computers and smartphones for their children to follow the online classes. When children are younger, parents need to have the knowledge on how to access learning platforms, download the learning material and help their children do their homework online, which is not the case in many home situations. While in most homes, they may have one computer or smartphone but they also need to work online themselves, thus making it impossible for both parents and their children to make use of the same device.

TV education has become one of the most mainstreamed approaches towards offering education material and lectures. From China, in Africa and to European countries, public and private broadcasters have been offering video-recordings of classroom lectures in cooperation with the ministries of education. This happens in a simple and straightforward way. Different TV channels offer as part of their programme the lectures. Thus early morning primary grade classes are offered covering the lectures on different subjects each day, whereas later on the programme switches to offer the video-recording of teachers tutoring and explaining the subjects for secondary education.

Another interesting measure to mitigate the effects of the crisis and ensure education continuity has come from France where the Ministry of Education has enacted national guidelines that all teachers should follow. Teachers from primary, secondary and higher education use specific a specific curriculum called CNED, which allows students to follow education even if they are not in classroom. This tool has already been available before the pandemic and now is seeing increased use.

Chat rooms to class rooms

An ad-hoc method that has been used throughout the world, especially in countries which have been less prepared to moving learning online, is using WhatsApp the popular mobile messaging app, where teachers create their classroom groups with their students and them share teaching material and assignments through photos and videos. Through the apps, teachers and students can text with each other about their assignments and keep track of their work. Yet, as discussed above, in order to use WhatsApp, children need to have a mobile phone or access to their parents’ phone connected to the internet which is not always the case.

The psychological and psycho-social effects of months of isolation for children and teenagers and university students should also be taken into consideration. Being isolated for months affects your mental health through different symptoms that manifest. First, college students who are isolated in their dorms or apartments away from their own country, the city they grew up, their families, and friends have a higher likelihood to be susceptible to mental health issues such as loneliness and depression. Also, children and students alike may find themselves suffering  from lower self-esteem and social discomfort as education institutions serve as places of socialization of peers. Going back to normality will take time and effort, and school psychologists play an important role in helping children go through these times. Both on school, department and education ministry level psychologist hotlines should be available all week long for children and students to offer mental support.

This crisis, apart from the obvious challenges in order to ensure equal access and education continuity, offers opportunities for students to develop or enhance their digital skills while doing their homework and assignments online. Technology is pushing towards innovation in ways we now perceive learning and the classroom where different classroom platforms such as Google Classroom, or Blackboard, and videoconferencing apps such as Zoom and Google Hangouts play a major role that will be increasingly more important in the future.

When we have children using some of the apps, privacy becomes a concern and how to keep them safe from the inappropriate content on the internet, from predators and from other types of online threats. This is something that experts, developers, teachers, and parents should always keep in mind.

Klaudjo Kavaja
Klaudjo Kavaja has an academic background in International Relations, Development Work and Education Policy with experience working in the field of education, international development, and human rights with professional experience in international organizations, INGOs, and research institutes. Interests include writing and academic research in issues such as EU affairs, Education, Public Policy, Migration, Conflict and Peace-building, and Western Balkans. Klaudjo Kavaja considers the European integration of Western Balkans as a whole, as the only viable sociopolitical and economic alternative for the region. An avid language lover speaking Albanian, English, Greek, and Spanish.

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