Reflections from NEPC on implications of Covid-19 pandemic

The emergency requires prompt action yet careful consideration

World Health Organization announced COVID-19 outbreak as a global pandemic on March 12th. In less than a month we all learnt what is exponential growth, new phrases (flattening the curve), proper way to sneeze, how to balance home and work life in one space and many more. Most importantly we were compelled to recognise the importance of public services, health primarily but education right behind it!

The impact of the pandemic on the education systems across the globe is immense. The pandemic containment measures closed down schools in most countries in the world and moved education to some type of online learning. This is surely impacting the quality of learning but at the same time impacts the home lives of teachers, students and their parents. Schools however, as we as educators are all aware, are not only a place of learning, but also a place of socializing, and for the most vulnerable often a place of safety, a warm meal, a shelter. The most advanced online tool and methodology will not help us with this. The emergency confirms the necessity of equipping teachers and students with technology tools and knowledge and the need of education systems to be in line with the present times, however it also confirms the limit of technology and the danger of the trend to reduce educational reforms to digitalization.

Although the region NEPC covers has faced its share of emergencies in the last three decades revolutions, wars, military coups, floods, earthquakes, recessions, the current emergency is unlike any other that this generation of teachers and certainly students have faced. It requires prompt action yet careful consideration on what these actions should be. The virus affects us all, weather we are ill or not, it does not discriminate yet the most vulnerable will suffer more. Rushing into online teaching/learning without properly prepared teachers, materials or the technology required and available to all while at the same time expecting that all learning outcomes will be achieved and the school year will be completed as normal and the next one will be just like all the others before is both unrealistic and dangerous! As adults in the room, policy makers, educators, teachers and school staff need to acknowledge and accept the exceptional circumstances we are in and focus on wellbeing of students rather than on their assessment, especially in the absence of any mitigating measures for students from vulnerable and law socio-economic backgrounds.

There was much wrong with today’s societies before the pandemic most prominently inequity and unsustainable living accentuated by the democracy crises in many countries of the world. At first glance, the pandemic seems to deepen at least two of the issue the equity gap and democracy. Many are now talking about the positive effect of the pandemic on the environmental crises and certainly there is an effect but we should all be aware there is no sustainability without equity and a functional democracy. These issues need be tackled from education perspective and fought for with education!

NEPC response: an analysis of policy effects on inclusion

NEPC has been concentrating on these issues for the last 15 years and will strive to use its method of EXPLORE, PARTICIPATE, CHANGE to rethink policy and support education actors. Realizing that we are still searching for a proper role of our network in this situation for now, we collect, observe and analyse different policy approaches. Specifically focused on the policies effects on inclusion and the most vulnerable. We hope that this will advance our aim for strategic synergies among our members and other partners as well as for utilization of existing knowledge and production of new approaches that will help us in proposing sustainable solutions. Impressed with all the actions our members are taking to support the education systems, students, teachers and communities in their countries and inspired by their dedication and promptness NEPC has initiated an Emergency fund with which we hope to support member’s activities related to the pandemic.

Solidarity, empathy and action is what is always needed, now more than ever, we are proud that our community has the courage to stay open and generous in times of uncertainty and that it continues to teach and learn!

Stay motivated and keep safe!

Lana Jurko, NEPC Executive director

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