The S4TCLF partnership has implemented an analysis and intelligence process on the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on VET providers and how training service providers have reacted to face the problem by consolidating practices that are now becoming "the new normal".
The first fact is represented by the figure below showing the number of learners enrolled at pre-primary, primary, lower-secondary, and upper-secondary levels of education [ISCED levels 0 to 3], as well as at tertiary education levels [ISCED levels 5 to 8] on May 19th 2020 in the world, when the pandemic just started to spread. The severity of the problem is obvious: practically all schools were closed (or partially closed).
Figure 1: UNESCO Institute for Statistics, data on May 19th, 2020
Through the analysis of the existing literature regarding the implications of COVID-19 on education and training around the world, we evidenced and grouped 5 main key challenges:
- Enhance digital teaching: the COVID-19 emergency has revolutionized the teaching and learning modalities; education has deeply changed, and the distinctive rise of e-learning, with remote teaching through the use digital platforms brought its benefits together with its challenges. A lot of efforts have been made to set up new tools to teach professors, students and parents on how to embrace digital learning, using it properly and supporting online collaboration.
- Keep students and apprentices engaged: the sudden shift to a different educational paradigm can leave some students disinterested and disengaged, especially considering such new restrictive learning conditions;
- Support the most vulnerable learners: digitalisation, apart from creating great opportunities, also involves significant challenges and more vulnerable students – such as for instance those from less advantaged backgrounds are especially likely to fall behind during this emergency period;
- Grade and assess students: there is the potential risk that the current situation does not allow students to be given fair opportunities in terms of assessment procedures and exams and consequently, grades might be less valid and reliable, a detrimental effect in any education system;
- Deliver on-the-job training in distance: the impossibility or the drastic limitation of on-the-job training, in cases such as apprenticeship and dual education, which are essential when it comes to allowing students to apply their understanding through direct and practical work.
Several practices and mechanisms have been put in place by VET providers across Europe (and the rest of the world) at national, regional and sectoral level to face the consequences of COVID-19. Such practices depend on each specific VET provider’s human and digital resources, its level of autonomy, the flexibility of national regulations and authorities’ support, and the collaboration with the regional stakeholders.
Figure 2: 5 main key challenges emerged during the analysis
Generally speaking, a specific VET best practice could not be suitable for others therefore it is important to leverage on all the possible aspects (as outlined in Figure 2) in order to put into practice a holistic and all-encompassing strategy in such time of crisis. To this end, the analysis has highlighted 3 important general steps to support VET providers in the creation of a set of good practices adequate for their needs:
- To make VET systems fast responsive to adapt to the crisis
- To accelerate the digital transformation in education
- To facilitate the exchange of knowledge and best practices
The S4TCLF project has also highlighted the necessity to strengthen collaboration among VET providers and to establish a solid partnership at regional/ national and international level.