COVID 19: how Senegal intends to ensure #LearningNeverStops

English / Français

By Rokhaya Fall Diawara and Tidiane Sall, UNESCO

The spread of COVID-19 is a growing worry for Africa. Among the 47 African countries that have closed their schools and universities to more than 280 million African children, 10 have not yet identified a single case of the virus. These closures will hold back education even further on a continent where already more than 200 million children and adolescents were not learning. The government of Senegal closed its schools on March 16 – one of the first to do so on the continent. What measures have been taken to ensure that learning doesn’t stop?


Image: Karel Prinsloo/ ARETE

Following school closures in Senegal, the Minister of Education recognized openly that there were limits to the response plan envisaged by the State. This emergency plan takes place in a school context characterized by teachers who do not have enough teaching hours to cover the curriculum and already weakened by repeated strikes in recent years. The idea was to to start with something and then work towards a more efficient model.

A plan based on a strategic partnership

The Ministry of National Education (MEN) has developed a response plan consistent with the national strategy led by the Ministry of Health and Social Action. This plan covers not only the period of the pandemic, but also looks at the idea of revising the school calendar in its aftermath and assesses different ways of evaluating learning.

Monitoring this plan will happen by a Monitoring Committee, chaired by the Minister of National Education. The Executive Secretary is the Head of the School Medical Control Division sitting on the National Response Unit fighting against the virus. Its members also include the directors and heads of national MEN departments, representatives of parents’ organizations, teachers’ unions, associations of Daaras (Koranic schools) and students. Continue reading

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COVID 19 : comment Sénégal entend assurer la continuité pédagogique

English / Français

Par Rokhaya Fall Diawara et Tidiane Sall, UNESCO

La situation en Afrique suscite de grandes inquiétudes face à COVID-19. Parmi les 47 pays africains qui ont fermé leurs établissements scolaires et universitaires, 10 pays n’ont même pas encore de cas du virus. La pandémie du COVID 19 condamne ainsi plus de 280 millions d’enfants africains à rester chez eux. Cette situation déteindra encore sur les résultats scolaires dans un continent où le nombre d’enfants et d’adolescents qui n’apprennent pas étaient déjà estimés à plus de 200 millions en 2018.   Le gouvernement de Sénégal a fermé ses écoles le 16 mars – un des premiers sur le continent. Quelles mesures ont été prises pour assurer la continuité de l’enseignement et de l’apprentissage ?


Image: Karel Prinsloo/ ARETE

Le cas du Sénégal

Suite à la fermeture des écoles au Sénégal, le Ministre de l’Education insiste sur les valeurs et fonctions de l’école, mais surtout reconnait les limites des options envisagées par l’Etat. Ce plan d’urgence se déroule dans un contexte scolaire caractérisé par un quantum horaire déficitaire et déjà fragilisé par des grèves à répétition ces dernières années. La préoccupation est de commencer avec quelque chose et d’œuvrer pour un modèle plus performant.

Un plan basé sur un partenariat stratégique: Le ministère de l’éducation nationale (MEN) a élaboré un plan de riposte en cohérence avec la stratégie nationale pilotée par le ministère de la Santé et de l’action Sociale. Ce plan couvre non seulement la période de l’épisode du coronavirus, mais également une posture d’anticipation allant jusqu’à une révision du calendrier et des modalités d’évaluation des apprentissages.

Le suivi de ce plan est confié à un Comité de veille, dirigé par le Ministre de l’Éducation nationale avec comme secrétaire exécutif le Chef de la Division du Contrôle médical scolaire qui siège à la Cellule nationale de lutte contre le virus. Il compte aussi parmi ses membres tous les directeurs et chefs de services nationaux du MEN, les représentants des organisations de parents d’élèves, les syndicats des enseignants, les associations des Daaras (écoles coraniques) et d’étudiants. Continue reading

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Covid-19: How is Italy coping with school closure?

By Anna Cristina D’Addio and Francesca Endrizzi, GEM Report

Italy is at the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic. With schools and universities closed at the end of February in the most affected areas of Italy, and closed nationwide on March 9, almost 12 million of learners from pre-primary to tertiary education are now at home. The country has since set distance learning as the rule to continue fulfilling the constitutional right to education for all.

The Ministry of Education immediately convened a taskforce for educational emergencies to meet students’ needs. But could the country have been better prepared? What strategies are making a difference? And how is equity being ensured?

Were schools prepared for the coronavirus?

As the GEM Report showed in a previous blog last week, while a surprise, a pandemic and mass school closures should not have been entirely unexpected given the frequency at which they occur in history.

Judging on the level of preparation depends on where you look. The digitalisation of the Italian education system started in the mid-2000s. Interactive whiteboards started being introduced later in classrooms, followed by the digital register in 2012 and the National Plan for School Digitalisation in 2015, which is now being crash-tested in the face of Covid-19. Continue reading

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Covid-19: Where’s the discussion on distance learning training for teachers?

A lot of the discussion, and rightly so, has been about the effect of school closures on students. Education, as they know it, stopped from one day to the next. But what about teachers? Just as students are new to distance learning, most teachers are also novices in being distance coaches. We look at the pressure placed on teachers, the absence of teacher training on distance learning in the past, the sorts of skills needed, the new tools teachers are now being plied with – but, first of all, the need to support the teaching workforce during these times of uncertainty.

Teachers need support during this crisis

Teachers have gone from fearing for their health, as schools continued during the pandemic, to fearing for their jobs in some contexts. Many in the United States fear that their pay rises are in jeopardy, for instance. It was also recently reported that Kenya teachers on the payroll of Bridge Academies, which currently works in around 2000 schools in five countries, will only be paid 10% of their salaries for two months of compulsory leave as a result of the pandemic – a period that risks being extended. Given that they don’t receive much more than USD$100 per month, this leaves them with little to survive on.

Teachers need training on distance learning

Screenshot 2020-04-01 at 11.16.52With schools now closed in 185 countries, teachers are having to suddenly take a crash course in how to keep lessons going online, adapting what and how they were teaching before to an entirely different teaching situation.

But many teachers are not up to scratch on ICT skills. The figure from the 2019 GEM Report, while not teacher specific, which gives some idea of how education systems may be overestimating the chances of distance learning working successfully. Only 40% of adults in upper middle-income countries are able to send an email with an attachment – a seemingly vital skill for any teacher hoping to send around classwork. A recent survey in the United States by ClassTag showed that 57% of teachers said they don’t feel prepared to facilitate remote learning and just one in five said school leaders were providing guidance on how to proceed. Continue reading

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How is the coronavirus affecting learners with disabilities?

Schools perform many functions outside of education. They provide a safe haven, a social arena, and, for families with children with special needs, they offer vital one-to-one support. Online learning, by comparison, is simply not up to the task. So what about their right to an education?


Image: Shivam Kapoor/UNESCO

Many websites and programmes are simply not accessible for blind or deaf students. As the 2020 GEM Report on inclusion will show, we have the technology to ensure that visually impaired students can study in mainstream schools and to use online studying materials in different formats, such as scanned versions that convert texts into sound or Braille characters – and some countries already do this. With schools closed around the world, some teachers are going the extra mile, using video conferencing to try and teach Braille, as this example from Canada describes. But, this is the exception rather than the rule.  And it is not sustainable.

Aside from technology matters, for children with even mild learning difficulties, such as attention deficit disorders, finding the self-motivation to work independently in front of a computer is a major challenge. Learning aside, losing the daily routine that school provides adds a significant layer of difficulty for learners with disabilities who are sensitive to change, such as those with autism spectrum disorder. To combat this, in Argentina, despite the lock down, special dispensation is given to parents of children with autism who are allowed to take their children on short car rides. But is this enough? Continue reading

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Who are the GEM Report Fellows?

gem report fellowshipThe GEM Report Fellowship, supported by OSF, and launched in 2019, aims to strengthen the evidence base on education, particularly in emerging economies, build research capacity in education, and reinforce the links between research, policy, and practice in education. There were four Fellows in the first year of the programme, and four more have just been appointed for the second round. This blog tells you about their areas of research.

The first round of fellows were Madhuri Agarwal from India, Gabriel Badescu from Romania, Enrique Valencia-Lopez from Mexico and Donny Baum from the USA. The first three worked on studies to inform the 2020 GEM Report on inclusion due for launch on June 23. Danny worked on a study relevant to the 2021 GEM Report on non-state provision. More information on their particular areas of research are below.

Continue reading

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Drawing links between economic status and education outcomes from ASER 2019

By M. Afzan Munir

Economic well-being affects a child’s education achievement in multiple ways. Studies have shown that a family’s socioeconomic status positively contributes not only towards a child’s educational attainment, but towards their academic performance as well.  ASER Pakistan 2019 survey has further explored this relationship in rural areas across Pakistan, collecting information on multiple education and household indicators. Using this data, an assets-based wealth index was generated using a Principal Component Analysis method to then break down the data  into four categories of socio economic status – or quartiles.


Image: Mohammad Abu Bakar

Screenshot 2020-03-27 at 11.40.46

Figure 1: Learning Levels (Highest Competency) by Wealth Status (ASER 2019)

This figure on the left shows that children in Pakistan from the richest families   (Wealth Quartile 4) outperformed children from the lower quartiles in all three subjects. The learning gaps are widest between children from the richest and the poorest households. On average, 40% of children from the richest but only and 22% of children from the poorest families are  able to read a story in Urdu;  38% of children from the richest but only 20% of children from the poorest are able to read English sentences, and 36% of children from the richest compared to 19% of the poorest can solve 2-digit division questions. Moreover, children from the same wealth quartile have been found to be performing better in reading Urdu relative to the assessment of other subjects.

This pattern continues for other higher-level competencies such as General Knowledge, Urdu Comprehension and Arithmetic Word Problems as well. Around twice as many children in Pakistan from the richest households answered all questions in respective domains correctly compared to children with lower socio-economic status as the next figure shows. Continue reading

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