Launching a new academic year under the cloud of COVID-19
Source: World Bank Group Blogs
The next few weeks mark the beginning of the school year across the northern hemisphere. Per the World Bank School Closure data, (School Closures and Affected Students by country; a World Bank tracking tool) sixty-seven countries, almost half of them located in Europe and Central Asia, have reopened or are expecting to reopen schools by September. This year, the safety of students and teachers vis-a-vis the coronavirus (COVID-19) spread is top priority. This is according to countries who responded to the World Bank-UNESCO-UNICEF Survey on National Education Responses completed in June. Results indicate that over 95% of respondents were planning for the reopening of schools and as such, are also stepping up policies and interventions to avoid infection increases. Among these measures are the reopening at national, or localized levels, or phasing back groups/grades (ex: France, Uruguay); recruiting additional teachers to cover shortages resulting from smaller classrooms (ex: Scotland); staggering attendance (ex: Germany); introducing temperature checks and social distancing requirements (ex: Denmark, Finland, Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Tunisia); and/or providing personal protective equipment to teachers and students when in school (ex: Djibouti). Few countries such as Brazil, Canada, and the United Kingdom, are leaving the decision to states, provinces, and districts. For example, in the US’s largest school district (New York, including New York City) schools will reopen only in districts that have shown consistent low transmission rates (lower than 5% over two weeks).
Finding a balance between learning and safety is challenging. Some countries are starting the school year relying solely on remote learning; or using it as a supplement to face-to-face learning. Students in Mexico will begin the 2020-2021 year getting their lessons via TV or radio. In the United States cities and school districts such as Atlanta, Houston, Miami, and Washington, DC suburbs have announced exclusive use of online learning for the first semester of 2020-2021. In Panama, classes started in July with students using an integrated platform that combines TV, radio, print and online resources. Authorities have adapted the curriculum to focus on essential skills and resilience.
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