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Toward a Global Response to COVID-19

A framework to guide education strategies amid school closures in countries around the world
Pins and string making a map of the world

Schools across the world are shifting education models to alternative forms of delivery, including virtual platforms, in order to comply with physical distancing requirements made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic. Educators are navigating uncharted territory, and students may be facing the consequences of lost learning time.

A new framework released this week seeks to prompt global cooperation and communication among education leaders during this unprecedented crisis. HGSE Professor Fernando Reimers and Andreas Schleicher, director for education and skills at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, issued the framework to nurture effective, equitable, and context-specific education strategies and to support student learning and well-being around the world. The framework is a decision-support tool based on more than 300 responses from 100 countries to a rapid survey that assessed educational needs and priorities, implementation challenges, and practices they have adopted. The framework is also based on analysis of data from the most recent PISA study on access to online connectivity and devices across the world.

>> Download the framework to guide an education response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The effort stemmed from a collaboration between the Global Education Innovation Initiative (GEII) at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Directorate of Education and Skills at the OECD. "This pandemic is likely to cause the most serious disruption to opportunity to learn globally in a century, widening already significant disparities in educational opportunity within and across nations," said Reimers, who heads the GEII. For that reason, the collaboration will continue during the course of the pandemic, generating reports that will support governments in designing responses to mitigate the impact on students learning.

Among its comprehensive recommendations, the framework advises education leaders to consider the following when planning and implementing new strategies during the current conditions:

Take a proactive approach
  • Designate a team to oversee the development and implementation of an alternative education strategy during the Pandemic that allows the continuity of instruction as students and teachers  comply with physical distancing requirements. Consider things like student access to internet, devices, or other low-cost distance learning platforms like TV or radio.
  • Communicate clearly and early with teachers, students, and families to maintain coherence in supporting students. Traditional means of communication (flyers, emails) may not always work, so consider more immediate outreach that comes directly from trusted staff members.
Reprioritize curricular goals and develop a continuity of operations plan.
  • Think about what can feasibly be taught to students with the materials and resources teachers have at hand. This may require a shift in curriculum or a departure from standards.
  • Communicate with other schools to figure out what their goals are and what has worked for them.
  • Curate high-quality resources at the federal, state, or district level. Consider crowdsourcing as long as the content can be thoroughly vetted.
  • Prioritize the wellbeing of students and staff.
  • Have goals for students and educators that are explicit and visible.
  • Maintain as much regularity in schedules as possible and check in as needed.
  • Issue guidance on the safe/healthy uses of devices and internet.
  • Continue services like meal delivery or mental health supports in a way that protects the health of students and staff.
Actively pursue innovative partnerships
  • Allow time for teachers, students, and families to collaborate and share ideas on how to make learning sustainable.
  • Look for opportunities with higher education institutions or within the private sector to develop resources and infrastructure to support learning.
Allow for regulatory flexibility
  • Consider relaxing requirements about face-to-face instruction and allow for online learning to provide a temporary substitute.
  • Relax the requirement of practicum hours for teacher candidates. Also consider the ways in which this may open opportunities for non-traditional candidates to pursue a career in education.
  • Consider leniency on standard procedures like teacher evaluations and testing.

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