During the first wave of the global coronavirus pandemic, 1.5 billion students across 160 countries worldwide were forced to study at home.
The European Training Foundation (ETF) has been monitoring the education and training responses to the coronavirus pandemic in 29 partner countries. This mapping exercise has allowed us to observe patterns of social change that are likely to have a long term impact on how and where education will take place, but also on at least one generation’s ability to integrate into the labour market and become successful contributors to society. Here are the five trends identified as vital for sustainable socio-economic development post COVID-19.
Education systems must design curricula and processes where well-being is a top priority
For young learners and teens, the pandemic could mean much more than online learning. The youngest of the Millenials, Generation Z and Generation Alpha will carry the imprint of these months on how they view and relate to the world. They are absorbing different lessons about communication, self-motivation to learn and potential career and life paths.
A socio-economic report by the ETF shows that “young graduates and young jobseekers who already faced difficulties entering the labour market are now at even greater risk, as countries have frozen apprenticeship programmes and other forms of support to young graduates.” At the same time, “weaker demand and more prudent hiring strategies may limit their employment opportunities over the medium-term.” Uncertainty and stress, looming over young people as they switch from Zoom room to Zoom room, do little for their ability to acquire new knowledge or skills, or for their social integration.
A country that has explicitly addressed well-being and mental health as part of its COVID-19 crisis management strategy is Turkey. The country’s digital education platform, EBA, and the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) were used to ensure remote learning reached as many children as possible (including children with hearing impairments) and were complemented by a helpline and a psycho-social guide for students and parents, released both as an app and as a web-based resource. This guide facilitated more open conversations about what children, parents and teachers experienced during the school lockdown, and reassured them that feeling distress is not uncommon under the circumstances.
Young people have the right to education and training in relevant skills
Well-being is a growing priority for individuals, who are more and more interested in living in less populated areas, taking advantage of new opportunities to work from home post-COVID. As companies move towards smart working, there is also higher potential for home countries to keep their young workers employed in organisations located anywhere in the world, thus minimising workforce migration. The reverse side of this coin is that education providers will have to keep up with the new logistical challenge of having students spread geographically and, perhaps, even across time zones.In this landscape, transferable, transversal skills are must-haves. Education systems need to put 21st century skills (scientific and IT literacy, creativity, collaboration, curiosity, problem solving) on an equal footing with other subjects. With more jobs becoming remote, there is an emerging need for a particular kind of social and emotional intelligence and for communication abilities that can make global, multicultural, remote teams work.