School closures are a common measure implemented by governments all around the world to fight the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. The trend towards a remote and digital learning oriented approach, which had already started before the pandemic, was greatly accelerated due to the inability to attend schools in person. Eurofound, the agency of the European Union for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, conducted a series of online surveys across the 27 member states of the European Union, in order to assess the level of satisfaction with remote learning and the support provided to it, wether by teachers or in terms of studying materials for students. The results have then been published last January in the report “Education, healthcare and housing: How access changed for children and families in 2020 ”.
It was noted how during the pandemic online learning had increased across all levels of education, but in particular in early childhood education and care (ECEC), that is young people going through primary or secondary levels of education. The survey round conducted in July 2020 asked parents and legal guardians what their opinion was regarding distance learning. Overall, most respondents were dissatisfied and not keen on repeating the experience in the future. It is worth noting that most households reported having or being provided with the material means necessary to engage in distance learning, therefore the dissatisfaction reported is not due to a lack of means but rather an aversion towards distance learning in itself.
The same can be said of the support received by teachers. With the exception of the questions about live support, whose low score could be attributed to the rapid shift to distance learning with little time for teachers to readjust, the responses to the other two questions were mostly positive.
It seems clear that parents and guardians are dissatisfied with distance learning in itself or do not believe it to be a valid teaching method for children of such young ages.
The UNICEF report “COVID-19: Effects of School Closures on Foundational Skills and Promising Practices for Monitoring and Mitigating Learning Loss ” published this year, includes a series of proposals and strategies to employ in order to strengthen the effectiveness of education systems as they adapt to the new situation, often mixing distance learning with in-school teaching.
UNICEF’s report highlights four key points: focusing on foundational learning, as these are the most difficult to recover and can result in significant damage to children’s accumulated learning and future opportunities; collecting real-time measurements specific to the context of COVID-19 to enable real-time measurement of its specific effects and differentiate the possible factors affecting learning and other educational outcomes; promoting multiple delivery channels for better inclusivity, to ensure that quality learning is achieved regardless of technological constraints; and reinforcing communication between teachers and parents/caregivers, as it is becoming increasingly clear that learning occurs both at school, in the classroom, in the community and at home.