Education and the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the education sector into a state of disarray. This article acts as a guide for teachers, institution heads, and officials on how to best address the crisis. How should institutions prepare within the short time available, and how should they handle students’ needs by level and field of study? Reassuring both students and parents is a crucial part of institutional response.

This is a brief guide to teachers, institutional heads, and state officials who are being looked upon to address the consequences of this crisis on education systems. It discusses:

  • The preparations systems can make
  • Student’s needs at various levels and stages
  • Reassurance to parents and students
  • How to handle remote learning
  • Curricula
  • Assessment
  • Post-COVID
  • Useful resources

Preparations


Considering that many governments failed to prepare adequately to curb the exponential spread of COVID-19, institutions didn’t have enough time to arrange for proper remote-teaching implementation. Where possible, some of the preparations could have included:

Making sure that all students carried the books home, and other materials need for study at home.

Tying up loose ends: for example, concluding test results and projects. Many teachers in the northern parts of the world were in the process of predicting grades of end of year exams for submission together with student’s applications to tertiary education. However, these predictions might have been different depending on whether they were made before or after the exams were formally suspended, creating anxiety for themselves and their students.

Preparing staff with professional development training: protection measures; establishing roles between departments; arrangements for teachers to keep in touch collectively for mutual support; and quick updates on learning technologies relatively familiar. Plenty of institutions had already made plans to enhance their utilisation of technology in teaching; however, the coronavirus outbreak meant that changes that were to be implemented over months or years had to happen in a matter of a few days.

Different students, different needs


This global health crisis has affected student’s lives in diverse ways, depending on their level and course of study as well as how far they are into their programs. Students finalising one phase of their education and proceeding to the nest, for example, those transitioning from school to tertiary education, or those transitioning from tertiary education to the job market, are in a particularly unique predicament. They won’t be able to finish their school curriculum and assessment the normal way, and most have been unexpectedly cut off from their social groups. Students who advance to tertiary education later on in the year are unlikely to take up offers to sit for their end-of-year exams, for example, the International Baccalaureate in a later session.

Those students part-way through their programs are also dealing with their own sets of challenges. They aren’t sure how the systems will go about restoring their courses and assessments once the pandemic is over. Most students in the COVID-19 cohort are worrying that they will suffer long-term disadvantages in comparison to those who studied in normal circumstances when they transitioned to other levels of study or entered the job market. While tertiary institutions are assuring students that they will apply the admission criteria “compassionately,” the students aren’t feeling all that reassured.

Although the implementation of remote-teaching and learning will vary as between elementary (primary) school and tertiary education, special attention will need to be given to the skills-sector programs (Technical and Vocational Education and Training – TVET). Graduates of these programs will be crucial in the recovery of the economy. While it is possible to provide the practical training they need via distance learning, it requires special arrangements. The Commonwealth of Learning provides an excellent point of reference for TVET in developing countries.

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