Education and Corona - helping students, teachers and parents

  • 2020-03-12
Foto copyright: Peter Baier

Watch this page for regular updates as the crisis develops. Last update: 01. 04. 2020 12:10

With schools having closed down and lock down in operation in many European countries, teachers, students and parents are facing difficult challenges.
What is the situation like in different country and how are governments, educational institutions and publishers reacting?

Austria: VERITAS, the biggest educational publisher, is providing free access to their learning platform. Since 2018 all books that have been published are also available as e-books. By opening the platform during school closures, VERITAS supports students and parents and enables them to continue learning.

Bulgaria: On 12th March the National Assembly declared a state of emergency for one month. Schools are closed and perhaps they will stay closed up to 19 of April according to the latest information. Prosveta has given free access to all Bulgarian students (more than 700,000) to all their digital resources as well as to resources for kindergarten as they are also closed.
An initiative was started in mid-March to provide online lessons delivered by teachers with live broadcasting from the publisher's studio. They started with lessons in Bulgarian language and Literature and Mathematics for the 7th grade. During the lessons pupils ask questions and teachers answer. All lessons are recorded and everybody can watch them when convenient on the publisher's website or Facebook. Since then the scope of lessons was expanded and now lessons in all subjects for grades 1st - 7th are being delivered. Lessons are broadcasted every day from 9 to 12 and from 14 to 17 pm on the Bulgarian National TV, as well as on private TV. Prosveta have recorded 62 lessons so far and are continuing to do so. The reviews from students, teachers and parents are very positive.

Croatia: From the aspect of logistics, Croatia is dealing with the corona virus quite well. The army is building field hospitals, stadiums are being repurposed for admission of patients etc. An additional issue was the earthquake that hit Zagreb on Sunday, 22nd. People started to ignore the guidelines of social distancing and for a moment forgot about the corona virus while helping each other. The consequences of this will become clearer in the days to come. The situation is quite serious and uncomfortable. The earthquakes are continuing, even though they are smaller in intensity they still cause fear and a sense of discomfort.
TV classes have been made available. A TV schedule has been made that structures the programmes by grade and this is how the school children currently attend class. Also, the Ministry of Education has provided Microsoft Teams as a general solution for the teachers to hold online classes. Teachers also use alternative platforms such as: Loom, Zoom, Yitzee, etc. The largest burden is placed on the parents who are working from home and on top of that are tackling educating their children despite lack of knowledge on this subject and barely having time to do this. Profil Klett is providing free access on its platform. The focus of activities currently is how to make teacher's jobs easier in these extreme conditions. Webinars on distance learning as well as webinars for specific subjects are offered to teachers. Another focus is on educating parents in the use of digital media. Video clips with simple and useful instructions for both teachers and parents have been provided. The situation in Croatia is doubly complicated because one crisis (Corona) demands social distancing, while the other (earthquakes) calls for close cooperation and direct help.

Czech Republic: All school are closed and will stay closed at least till the end of April. The Czech national TV is broadcasting classes every day. And also there are many webinars every day for parents and teacher provided by the ministry of education.
Fraus and all other publishers are providing their online content for free. They are also providing a selection of printed workbooks for a 50% discount to parents and children at home.
Czech schools, teachers and parents are undergoing a rapid transition to the digital world. In the last two weeks, more than 1200 Czech primary and lower secondary schools signed for the online platform More than 1 000 000 free licences for e-textbooks were distributed. The Covid crisis is taking a toll on the overall Czech book market. All book stores are closed and many publishing houses and book distributors are starting to have financial problems.

Denmark: Schools and universities have been closed since Friday March 13 and will remain so until at least April 13th. Teaching and learning must continue as much as possible. Teachers have been developing or sharpening their virtual education skills with lightning speed and most teachers, all principals and the government have welcomed the free access to digital learning materials from most publishers including Systime and edtech startups.
Government and health authorities have expressed cautious optimism regarding the effects of the measures taken and the cooperation of the public. No date for easing the regulations has been announced, but planning is going ahead and the end of the Easter break is a possible milestone. It's a tight balance to uphold, also morally in the public.
In Systime, both the organisation itself and the tools for planning and cooperation have proved quite suitable for distance work, so most projects are running according to plans. Company-wide virtual meetings with 50+ participants are run successfully. The digital platform is doing well.

Estonia: All schools have been closed since mid-March and stay closed as long as needed. Koolibri's digital materials platform is free for everybody and teachers and pupils use it a lot more than earlier.
As kindergartens are still partly open to help parents with their job responsibilities Koolibri offered free children books to kindergartens. They are sending colouring books, puzzle books etc. so kindergarten teachers can offer interesting activities for children. This help is especially needed in the countryside where schools together with kindergartens are often working as social centers. Some kindergartens are re-distributing materials to children who have to stay at home.

Finland: In Finland almost all schools are now closed. The lockdown might continue to the end of the spring season. Otava Publishing has opened all digital materials (as a 90 days test period) for teachers to help them survive teaching online. Otava has also opened lots of digital learning materials for the pupils who are mostly using printed content. Helping teachers to do their job is most important right now

Germany: Schools are closed until at least April 20. Nevertheless teaching and learning should go on, even if schools and parents are not really ready for switching to home schooling.
Due to the federal system, the digital infrastructure is very fragmented. Every state uses a different learning platform or does not have a digital solution at all. Teachers are now improvising but they cannot make sure every student will get the learning material and support they need. In that situation a lot of players are now opening their digital offers in order to help and teachers start using them and recommending digital learning possibilities. How this situation will change the market in the long term is currently difficult to say.
Cornelsen has created a page to support teachers, parents and students with free material and advice during this time. The social debate is now slowly moving towards an "exit strategy" due to the economic situation. Schools might even reopen after the Easter vacations.

Greece: All schools, universities etc have been closed since March 10th. Shops (except food and other necessities) closed on March 18th and measures to control people's circulation were imposed on March 23rd.
In Greece the government produces educational material and the publishers provide auxiliary material. From Monday March 23rd, the ministry of education announced that schools should start e-learning, but the platforms they use are not reliable, or tested sufficiently.
Patakis Publishers is one of the biggest publishing houses in children's books as well as educational material, so these days that people stay home, Patakis offered to openly share children's books. So far, free access to around 30 complete books or selected stories from entire collections in audio format has been provided. Next week, the focus will be on sharing additional materials with parents and teachers.

Ireland: CJ Fallon will provide full access to their textbooks and other digital resources until the end of the school year.

Israel: The Center for Educational Technology, in collaboration with the Ministry of education are preparing 12 virtual studios to broadcast daily lessons (8:00am-2:00pm) to all schools' students in Hebrew and Arabic.

Latvia: There are very few cases of Corona. No deaths have been reported but testing is done all over Latvia in huge numbers. However, all kindergartens/pre-school centres have been closed since March 13th. Kids have to stay at home with their parents or guardians as only those kids whose parents are health or emergency workers are allowed to be taken to the institutions. All schools are also closed but teachers must have distance/on-line classes for all students. However, the curricula can be covered only partially. It still has a lot of pressure on families as everyone has been told to restrict movement and work remotely. Zvaigzne ABC have opened all their digital materials free of charge to everyone starting March 13th up to June 30th as people don't believe the situation will get better soon. A surge in new users has occurred but, of course, this is only because teachers as well as parents are looking for all available resources. Zvaigzne ABC employees are working from home where possible.
Customer numbers are dramatically down in bookstores because people are saving money for essential everyday products and medicine, and many have become unemployed. All publishers are suffering. So far the Latvian government has not indicated publishers as those that are eligible for stimulus packages but the situation might change any day. It is evident that without support packages from the government publishers will be bankrupt in a month or two despite any marketing activity.

: all schools are now closed; for now, the quarantine is until 12 of April, but might continue till the end of spring season. The official start of distance learning was on Monday 30th March. However, the process is poorly organized nationwide - no clear recommendations which platforms to use were issued for schools, therefore in a particular school, a very wide range of different platforms, chosen by different teachers, might be used, making the experience difficult both for students and parents. The Ministry of Education mainly focuses on the lack of computers for children from families with lower income and allocated a significant sum for instant purchases of large amounts of hardware.
Sviesa has opened its digital platform for teachers and students to assist them with the distance learning process. The webinars and methodological material on distance learning was highly welcomed by teachers..

Poland: Schools in Poland have been closed since mid-March. It is very probable that they will stay closed until the summer holidays. The ministry issued a special law and expects teachers to run online classes despite the fact that not all of them have equipment, skills and bandwidth. The ministry allocated approximately € 40mill for municipalities to buy computers for teachers as well as children from less wealthy families. Most of the educational services (electronic gradebooks and ministry eLearning platform) are down frequently due to enormous traffic.
Learnetic's LMS platform is running smoothly and serves almost 5.000 schools at present. A long list of commercial resources is provided on the platform for free. Several textbook publishers opened their resources for free as well. Learnetic also supports schools in Lebanon with both platform and resources. All of Learnetic's employees work from home.

Portugal: Almost all the Portuguese schools have been closed since mid- March. Texto Editores is now providing educational digital content for to teachers and students for free.
The publisher has sent tutorials to teachers helping them to use the educational platform and also regular newsletters with both suggestions of inspiring activities and tips about distance education.

Serbia: The government has announced a state of emergency with many very restrictive measures on March 16th. Schools, kindergartens and universities are closed. The Ministry of education has organized broadcasting of many school classes through the main national TV channel.
In the meantime, Kreativni Centar, like all educational publishers have opened their digital platforms for free. They have also organized different online activities (like Kindergarten at home), mainly for supporting parents and kindergarten teachers. Kreativni centar's people work from home, hoping that this situation will not last for very long.

Spain: The situation is still critical even though strict measures of "social distancing" were passed in mid-March. Schools have been closed since March 13th. It is likely that face-to-face tuition will be cancelled until September. The lockdown is the same as in many European countries, where possible, people work from home, only shopping for food and medicine is allowed.
The government is issuing a package of economic measures to help and mitigate the impact of the crisis. However, since the Spanish economy is largely depending on the service industry and tourism unemployment is expected to increase to 2008 levels.
The publishing house Vicens Vives reacted quickly, and launched a support landing page for all schools that did not have any digital content ready to continue the school year. On the site, links and licences to the contents of their k-12 catalogue are made available for any school to use, free and without registration. Schools and teachers are reacting very positively, which is important for the staff in terms of morale. It also represents a shift in the perception of digital content and platforms for many schools that are using them for the first time.

Sweden: In Sweden, only upper secondary schools and universities are closed. Natur och Kultur and several other publishing houses are providing digital content for free.

Ukraine: Ranok, despite schools still being open, have decided to launch online lessons for students. The lecturers are authors of Ranok textbooks and the best Ukrainian teachers. An E-school for teachers provides recorded webinars on diverse topics. Teachers and students will be given all digital materials for free for three weeks.

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