Join us on 10 Sept. for the OECD Forum Virtual Event “Schooling in times of COVID-19”

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As part of an OECD Forum series, the Virtual Event “Schooling in times of COVID-19: How the pandemic is changing educationwill take place on Thursday 10 September, from 2 to 3:30 PM (CET).

The discussion will focus on the fact that while the absence of traditional schooling has had deep and lasting effects on educational outcomes, students’ engagement with the school system, and their well-being, the current context also offers an opportunity to reinvent learning.  Please learn more about the session and its speakers, and join us by registering here!

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced school closures in 188 countries, profoundly disrupting the learning process of more than 1.7 billion children and youth, as well as the lives of their families. While schools in many countries have re-opened to varying degrees, others have remained shut, with students and teachers quickly adapting to the rapidly changing environment. As the summer break in the Northern Hemisphere comes to a close, the new school year is looking particularly unusual and uncertain. 

Along with the Harvard Global Education Innovation Initiative, HundrED and the World Bank Group Education Global Practice, the OECD has undertaken a survey of how the education systems of 59 countries responded to the COVID-19 pandemic to better evaluate and learn from the impact of the crisis. The results make clear that, despite the flexibility, commitment, and ingenuity shown by schools and teachers in securing educational continuity during school closures, only about half of the students were able to access all or most of the curriculum. This is due to the deep disparities in access to technology, connectivity and digital skills faced by students from different socio-economic groups. Evidence from the OECD’s Programme in International Student Assessment (PISA) shows that most of the participating education systems were not ready to offer most students opportunities to learn online. Across OECD countries, more than one in ten 15-year olds from socio-economically disadvantaged schools did not have a quiet space to study at home nor an internet connection. One in five did not have access to a computer for schoolwork.

Forced out of the classroom, pupils may face long-term consequences. Lack of physical learning opportunities and economic distress are increasing the risk of disengagement and dropout from education and training, especially among students in difficult socio-economic and family situations. The findings from the OECD survey also confirm significant psychological impacts of social distancing and quarantine measures on young people causing stress, anxiety and loneliness, showing that young adults (aged 18 to 29) experience higher level of distress compared to other age groups since the onset of the pandemic. At the same time, school closures may force parents to stay at home with their children and not return to work, with mothers being disproportionately affected in such circumstances. Teachers themselves can express very legitimate concerns about their safety, pointing to the importance of striking the right balance between the educational benefits, health and well-being of students, that of their families, as well as of education professionals.

Read the latest OECD publication: The Impact of COVID-10 on Education: Insights from education at a glance 2020 by Andreas Schleicher, Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills

Yet, transitioning to distance learning has also allowed schools and teachers to experiment with innovative teaching and learning tools and delivery systems that could have a long-lasting positive impact on education systems. The survey results further demonstrate that teachers generally have good access to digital tools, and have shown their readiness to make the most of their potential, engaging in multiple modalities of collaboration and professional development. Whilst challenges to effective implementation remain widespread, these practices should be continued and deepened in the aftermath of the pandemic.

This crisis is presenting us with an opportunity to embrace digital learning and online collaboration, allowing us to develop new models of education and new ways of employing face-to-face learning time. It encourages us to harness new blended modalities of teaching and learning, greater personalisation of education through digital tools, and different time-management methods that may give students and teachers more agency while keeping them engaged. It also empowers teachers to make the most of digital innovations, and can foster their use of online collaborative platforms to share resources and give and receive peer feedback. All have great potential to improve education in the wake of the crisis.

In sum, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools across the world to change, adapt, and experiment. While this is a major stress test for education systems, it is also a chance to develop alternative education opportunities that may have a long-term impact on our schooling systems. Addressing the spread of the virus remains a core priority to prevent learning losses and the deepening of inequalities in educational opportunities. But if the current disruption of schooling prompts us to successfully embrace best practices and harness the benefits of technological innovations in an inclusive but also humane fashion, the rethink of schooling for the 21st century may yet prove to be the silver lining of these pandemic-stricken times.

Click here to learn more about the session and its speakers, and register.

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Willemien Bax

Head, OECD Forum, OECD

Willemien Bax is currently Head of the OECD Forum, the Organisation's largest annual public event. Ms Bax, a Dutch national, has over 20 years of experience in public affairs, working with governments, as well as non-governmental organisations and the private sector. Prior to joining the OECD, from 2001 to beginning 2010, Ms Bax worked with the European Consumers Organisation (BEUC) as Deputy Director-General where she oversaw BEUC’s public affairs and media relations strategies in a number of public policy areas ranging from transparency and governance to food, environment, health, economic and legal affairs. In 2004, she initiated a training programme financed by the European Commission, for all consumer organisations in the EU, as well as potential EU-candidate countries. The training focused on giving consumer organisations the tools to develop effective public affairs and communication strategies. In 2009, in her capacity as European Chair of the Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue, she contributed to debates on major international public policy issues such as financial regulation, innovation and energy efficiency.

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