UNESCO survey highlights measures taken by countries to limit impact of COVID-19 school closures

A UNESCO survey of national education systems undertaken in 61 countries is shedding some light on the measures being put in place to minimize the impact of school closures due to COVID-19 that has now impacted over 1.5 billion students.

The survey indicates that governments around the world are making efforts to rapidly deliver distance education at scale in an attempt to ensure continuity of learning

Providing distance learning

Most education systems have implemented measures related to distance learning, but the approaches and concerns vary across income groups. 90% of high-income countries/territories reported that they were using existing online learning platforms while only 53% from low and lower-middle income countries/territories are doing so.

Insufficient Internet capacity is a concern for all education systems. 42% of the education systems from low- and lower-middle income countries/territories indicated that the availability good power (electricity) infrastructure is a concern. Perceived lack of adequate ICT/digital skills, first and foremost among parents/caregivers who are essential facilitators for home-based on-line learning (80%), but also among teachers (64%), as well as among students (48%) is stated as a concern across income levels.

Protecting students’ health and well-being during school closure

Schools provide a place not only for academic learning but also for the students’ social and emotional development. 70% of the responding education systems are providing practical guidelines to support students’ daily lives. In addition, 43% of the education systems are setting up school mechanisms for monitoring student well-being and learning. 38% of the surveyed education systems are providing psychological support to students.  To ease the impact of social distancing, more than half of the education systems stated that they are encouraging students to communicate with friends online using different platforms.

Supporting teachers

Teachers are the key to successful implementation of distance learning.  Almost 50% of the surveyed education systems across all income levels are providing additional in-service teacher training to prepare for distance teaching. While teachers are receiving additional support and training, their psycho-social health and well-being seem to be less attended to. Only one fourth of respondents reported that they are providing psycho-social support to teachers such as counselling.

Ensuring exams and assessment of learning

Due to prolonged school closures, school calendars have been significantly disrupted. The measures most frequently adopted to address this disruption include changing the exam and assessment dates. 46% and 39% of surveyed education systems are changing the dates of high-stakes exams and other summative assessments respectively. Some governments are proposing to organize some of the exams and assessments online. 25% of the surveyed education systems are conducting summative assessments online, while 15% are organizing high-stakes exams online.

For more detailed analyses and recommendations on exams and assessments, see UNESCO Working Paper “COVID-19: An overview of national coping strategies on high-stakes examinations and assessments”.