Pandemic and its effects on education
COVID-19-related school cancellations have caused substantial disruptions in schooling across Europe. According to emerging data from some of the region’s wealthiest nations, the epidemic is causing learning deficits and increasing inequality. Ukraine and other less-affluent lower-middle-income nations, which are expected to be affected much harder, must develop learning recovery programs, safeguard educational budgets, and prepare for future shocks by “building back better” to limit and counteract the long-term negative impacts.
45 nations in Europe and Central Asia shuttered their schools at the height of the epidemic, affecting 185 million children. Teachers and administrators were caught off guard by the suddenness of the issue and were compelled to create emergency remote learning systems fairly immediately.
The lack of human connection between teacher and student is one of the drawbacks of emergency remote learning. This is just not feasible with broadcasts. Several nations, on the other hand, took the initiative to improve the distant educational experience by employing additional channels such as social media, email, telephone, and even the post office.
Ukraine also took steps to assist remote teaching and learning, beginning with television broadcasts of video lectures and the use of online distant learning platforms. During the COVID-19 issue, organizations such as EdCamp Ukraine provided online professional development and peer-to-peer learning opportunities for instructors to meet remotely and exchange their experiences with online learning. In the 2020–21 school year, Ukraine also sponsored awareness campaigns with UNICEF, such as “Schools, We Are Ready,” to inform teachers, administrators, students, and parents about the principles for safe and sustained learning under COVID-19.
Unfortunately, evidence is emerging that school closures have resulted in actual learning losses, despite best attempts to build up a supportive distant learning experience. Although further research on these effects is needed, preliminary findings from Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom show both learning losses and increases in inequality. Alarmingly, these losses are significantly larger among pupils whose parents have less education, a result backed up by a research indicating that children from more affluent households received more parental help with their academics during the school shutdown period.
These new statistics, which give insights into the region’s wealthiest nations, may also be used to forecast results in middle-income nations. Despite their advanced technical capabilities, the rapid move to virtual learning has resulted in learning losses and exacerbated inequality in Europe’s high-income countries. These consequences are expected to be much more severe in middle- and lower-income nations like Ukraine, where technical competence is limited and a higher proportion of families live in poverty.
Learning deficits outside of the classroom might lead to much more long-term difficulties. It’s been known for a long time that lower exam results are related with potential job losses. Gains in student achievement, on the other hand, are linked to large increases in future wages, as are more years of schooling, which are linked to an 8–9% rise in lifetime earnings. The learning deficits caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to have a long-term cumulative detrimental influence on many children’s future well-being if no action is taken. These learning deficits may result in limited access to further education, decreased labor market involvement, and low educational attainment.
We propose three main recommendations for Ukraine and other nations to alleviate these difficulties while also developing a more robust system that can weather future crises: adopting learning recovery programs, preserving education funds, and planning for future shocks.
1.Put learning recovery programs in place.
Governments must guarantee that students who have fallen behind receive the assistance they require to catch up to projected learning objectives as soon as possible. To identify these children and their assistance requirements, the first step must be to conduct just-in-time evaluations. According to research, 12-week tutoring programs can help kids achieve the same level of achievement as three to five months of traditional schooling. Middle school pupils in Italy who got three hours of online coaching each week through computer, tablet, or smartphone improved their math, English, and Italian scores by 4.7 percent.
Ukraine is adopting learning continuity programs, including the launch of the All-Ukrainian Online School, a distance and blended learning platform for students in grades 5–11. The project, which is coordinated by Ukraine’s Ministry of Education and Science (MOES) and Ministry of Digital Transformation, assists teachers and students in staying connected, gaining access to educational materials, and continuing their education during the period of enhanced quarantine measures, when schools are closed. Lessons in 18 fundamental disciplines are available on the platform, which includes videos, exams, and a lesson compendium. Students can also keep track of their own learning progress. Despite this, studies show that poor internet connection and availability to equipment for online learning (particularly in rural regions), along with a lack of public support for remote learning, pose obstacles. Aside from learning continuity programs, Ukraine may support “just-in-time” student evaluations to assess the amount of learning losses and identify students who have fallen behind and may require further targeted help to catch up. Accelerated learning or tutoring programs could be able to assist close the gap in learning.
2. Ensure that the education budget is protected.
Given the considerable financial burden that economies have faced as a result of the epidemic, several nations may face government budget cuts, jeopardizing recent achievements in terms of access to education and better learning results. It is critical to maintain the education budget and to help the schools that require the greatest funding in order to achieve a strong comeback. To assist the most vulnerable kids, governments should devote a large portion of funds and resources to schools that provide remote teaching, especially if those schools serve high-poverty and high-minority populations. Incentives such as scholarships may be necessary to motivate students to stay in school. Learning rehabilitation programs, on the other hand, will be impossible to implement without significant financial backing. Affluent families will be able to continue to pay educational enhancements such as tutoring in the face of budget cuts; but, lower-income families will not be able to cover this gap as readily. For example, the United Kingdom announced a £1 billion child catch-up fund with a part set aside for tutoring and a £76 million budget for the National Tutoring Programme. To return to prior levels of learning, considerable resource allocations and additional efforts will be required.
By increasing transfers to local governments for teaching aids and equipment, providing additional support and social protection to teachers and academic staff through salary increases, and implementing a new transfer to local governments for school safety and other measures aimed at combating COVID-19, Ukraine has taken steps to protect and shore up education spending in 2021. In the future, Ukraine will want to keep a careful eye on overall education funding levels to ensure that money are being used wisely and that resources are available to assist learning recovery initiatives, particularly for the most vulnerable pupils.
3. Improve your resilience in the face of future shocks.
Not only must we recover from the epidemic, but we must also use this experience to better prepare for future disasters. Countries must improve their capacity to deliver mixed types of education in the future to achieve this goal. Schools should be better equipped to transition between face-to-face and online instruction as needed. This would safeguard kids’ education not just in the event of future pandemics, but also in the event of other shocks that may result in school closures, such as natural disasters or severe weather. It will also open up possibilities for more customized teaching and learning techniques. With this in mind, adaptable curriculum that may be taught in person or online will be required. Furthermore, in the case of future school closures, instructors must be better prepared to manage a wide range of IT equipment. It will be beneficial to provide brief training sessions to boost their digital abilities. It is critical to use the post-pandemic time to restore and strengthen education systems. Simultaneously, it is critical to develop a future education system that can better utilize blended learning models to reach all learners at their level and deliver more personalized teaching techniques.
Ukraine is already taking steps in this direction, despite the fact that it is a long-term process. The authorities have created laws for distant education, and efforts are underway to increase the number of schools with internet connection and access to digital devices and equipment, allowing for more blended learning techniques to be used in schools in the future. Even still, “rebuilding better” necessitates strong action and a vision for the sort of human capital Ukraine will require in the future to develop and prosper. It is important to continue the wider education reform effort, which began in 2014 and includes both the New Ukrainian School (NUS) program in school education and the reform of higher education to European Higher Education Area norms. Through measures to increase digitization in the education sector, Ukraine’s MOES is developing a project with the World Bank to improve learning continuity and operational resilience in higher education. These measures will aid higher education institutions in recovering from COVID-19’s effects while also allowing them to adapt to more robust and flexible ways in the future.