Commentary

Emerging country-level responses to providing educational continuity under Covid-19: what’s working?

Chris Joynes, Emma Gibbs, and Kate Sims, with input from Rob Rodney (UK Department for Education) and Jamie Proctor (UK Department for International Development and the EdTech Hub)

As Covid-19 has forced governments around the world to close schools, policy responses to ensuring educational continuity are rapidly changing. As countries formulate and implement their strategies for education provision, our report examines the key themes emerging in the worldwide policy landscape and assesses which approaches are – and which are not – working well.

In the face of Covid-19, governments worldwide have been faced with the challenge of rapid policy responses to ensure that children continue to receive an education in a period of school closures. While the status of national strategies and policies is rapidly changing, this report examines key themes emerging from the responses to date, and assesses which approaches are – and which are not – working well. Based on an analysis of eleven East Asian, South Asian and sub-Saharan African countries, the report offers a set of recommendations supported by the evidence as it currently stands.

This report was produced at great speed in response to the emerging Covid-19 crisis, commissioned by the Ed Tech Hub with the UK Department for Education and the Department for International Development, and is available to read in full here. Along with its sister report, which considers best practice for remote teaching pedagogy, it forms part of Ed Tech Hub’s coronavirus resources.

The fluidity and fast pace of change in Covid-19 policy responses, and the consequent nature of the evidence available at this stage, presents challenges to formulating firm conclusions. However, based on the evidence and literature as it currently stands, our team has drawn out several key themes and recommendations which may be valuable as policymakers and other system leaders continue to respond to these unprecedented circumstances.

  1. Nascent policies and strategies are prioritising access to educational provision following school closures. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is currently little documented policy and planning beyond the immediate challenge of providing access to education for out-of-school pupils. Moving forward, we hope to see more on how states are designing policies to support teachers and protect vulnerable students.
  2. Centralised systems have been better able to take swift action, but this need not be at the expense of local autonomy. Evidence suggests that more centralised systems have been better able to rapidly mobilise resources and enact substantial policy change. However, this centralised action can and should be balanced with a degree of localised autonomy and locally delivered support.
  3. Cross-sectoral partnerships may be key to successful and rapid rollouts of remote learning. Such partnerships, for example with private sector ICT infrastructure providers, can upgrade connectivity and widen access to technological solutions and for remote learning. Partnerships with multilateral organisations seem to play influential roles in decision-making in low-income settings.
  4. Remote learning strategies should carefully consider capacity, infrastructure and user access to technologies. Many governments appear to be leaning towards high-tech remote learning solutions, but these may not always be the most suitable approaches, especially for ensuring educational equity. Alternatives means of remote education must be considered to avoid entrenching existing inequalities.
  5. Action should be accompanied by clear, coherent messaging and stakeholder support. The rapid decision-making undertaken by many governments has been impressive, but the benefit of these actions will be limited without clear communication, coordination and appropriate support for key system stakeholders.
  6. The impact of policy approaches will need to be measured and evaluated to inform ongoing decisions and longer-term change. System leaders and stakeholders should adopt an adaptive mindset and learning-focussed approach, monitoring and evaluating programmes to help ensure they achieve positive outcomes.

 

To read the report, analysis and recommendations in full, please visit the EdTech Hub website, or click here.