The new coronavirus COVID-19 unexpectedly invaded our lives and the lives of millions of people around the world. In a really short time, millions of members of the educational community have started teaching in front of a computer screen while their students have had to stay home and watch lessons online.
Let’s have a look at data on digitalisation level in schools retrieved by the consortium of the DigiVET project.
how did this transition take place?
According to UNESCO data as of April 27, 2020, 91.3% of pupils / students in 188 countries around the world did not go to school / university (UNESCO ISD, 2020). During the first Lockdown in the Spring of 2020, many countries tried to address the new situation in their education system with a grid of measures that varied according to local and national specificities, the level of knowledge and skills of teachers, parents and students with new technologies, familiarity with the philosophy of Distance Education, and ultimately cultural issues and the temperament of societies especially in emergency situations.
The transition of the education systems in EU to distance education during the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted gaps in students’ digital participation. This is stated, inter alia, in the 2020 education and training monitoring report prepared by the European Commission and was highlighted again in the research of the European project DigiVET of the ERASMUS+ programme, realized in 2021.
How the teachers, students and parents reacted?
Teachers must be professionals with multiple skills in order to attract students, in individual, or small groups and classes. Parents do not have these characteristics, nor do they have access to the student group that is often managed by teachers.
Similarly, school culture is characterized by routine for students, e.g. a specific time each day breaks and completion of certain activities. Unfortunately, there is a risk that the gap between students widen during the period of education by distance. Therefore, it is important for both teachers and parents to work together to implement practical and informed solutions to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic (Spotlight, 2020 UNESCO, 2020).
At the same time, parents cannot take on the role of teachers. The possibility to have pleasant spaces for study that will not distract students, to follow the schedule as defined by the school structures, to take defined breaks, to not hesitate to express questions or concerns to teachers, can support the process of education by distance. (Reimers, et. al, 2020).
According to UNESCO, only 20% of countries globally were equipped with online teaching devices and programs before the pandemic hit. Evidently, schooling systems were not digitally prepared, revealing the overall weakness of European digital learning. In fact, a survey published by HundrEd, a not-for-profit organization active on promoting innovation in education, indicated only 6% of respondents evaluated their education system as being prepared for the pandemic.
In Romania, only 63,4 % of teachers were provided with support from their institution. In Ireland, the Irish National Digital Experience Survey demonstrated that 70% of academics/teachers were completely inexperienced in online teaching before the crisis. Although, according to YouGov, a data analytics firm, 87% of teachers said they received support from their institutions.
Despite relative unprepared educational systems, some European countries were more experienced with online learning. These countries, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden and Norway have decided to gather up their digital education tools and share best practices with other countries.
Most of the reports researched in Cyprus revealed that there was/is a gap between how teachers and students perceive their digital skills.
The majority of teachers (61.8%) feel well or very well prepared to use ICT in teaching (EU average: 37.5%) and only 10.8% report a strong need for professional development in this area (EU average: 18%) – (OECD, 2020).
Slightly more than half of the teachers who participated in continuing professional development programs focused on ICT skills for teaching. However, given the rapidly changing nature of the ICT sector, it is troubling that this percentage has remained unchanged since 2013. In terms of students, 19% of 16–19-year-olds thought they had low digital skills in 2019 – higher than the EU average (15%) and virtually unchanged since 2015.
General digital skills above baseline are reported by 36% of students – a significant increase of 16 percentage points since 2015, but still well below average of the EU (57%)”, it is typically noted. Specifically, it is noted:
New forms of digital learning require modern equipment in schools. Teachers believe that schools are well equipped with digital infrastructure in both primary (Vrasidas, 2015) and secondary education – (OECD, 2020).
However, according to a comparative study at EU level, the proportion of schools with a high degree of supply of digital equipment (laptops, desktops, cameras, interactive whiteboards) per student and high-speed broadband is very low in primary (2% vs. 35% on average in the EU) and in lower secondary education (0% vs. 55%) and moderate in upper secondary education (55% vs. 72%).
Challenges educational community faced
Health care and access to education are basic human rights. Rights that continue to face multiple obstacles to their implementation in the general population. Unfortunately, both are now further threatened after the Covid-19 outbreak.
There are many elements involved in distributing teaching materials, gaining experience and engaging students so that they can continue to learn as part of a community (ISP International Schools Partnership, 2020). Technology (modern or asynchronous) can support the work of teachers but in no way replace them.
Many educators are unfamiliar with Digital design principles & practices. Some work intuitively, some borrow ready-made material. Some in learning planning need support. Extracurricular learning is often more effective (due to interaction with the teacher or with material). Lastly, the notion that all students have equal access to online resources or devices is wrong.
In this area, DigiVET carries out activities with the aim of improving the situation of online education and overcoming the digital divide.
DIGIVET – CREATING DIGITAL CONTENT WITH THE UTILISATION OF FREE ONLINE RESOURCES is funded by the European Union’s Erasmus+ programme under Key Action 2, Strategic Partnerships in Vocational Education and Training. DigiVET aims to address the challenges in VET for both VET trainers and learners that have emerged from the transition to the digital age after COVID-19.
- Coordinator: CREFOP Centrul de Resurse pentru Educatie si Formare Profesionala, Romania
- CSC CENTRO PER LO SVILUPPO CREATIVO DANILO DOLCI, Italy
- die Berater Unternehmensberatungs GmbH, Austria
- Eurotraining Educational Organization, Greece
- Novel Group, Luxembourg
- CETRI Centre for Technology Research and Innovation LTD, Cyprus
- REPLAY Network, Italy