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March 24, 2020 Tuesday 10:06:02 PM IST

1.37 bn Students at Home on Covid-19 School, College Closures

International Edu News

UNESCO on Monday said that 1.37 bn students worldwide were affected by Covid-19 closures. An adhoc meeting of education ministers was convened to support teachers, parents and students in coping with home learning.  In addition, nearly 60.2 million teachers are no longer in the class room. UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said that the establishment of a Global Covid-19 Education Coalition may help in mobilising the expertise of multiple partners and strengthen support to national educational responses. 
While the focus during the early days of school closures was on deploying distance learning solutions, the spotlight has shifted to supporting teachers and families. “More than ever, learners need to be accompanied as much academically as emotionally,” said Stefania Giannini, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Education. “This is a wake-up call for education systems to place dedicated efforts on socio-emotional skills – empathy and solidarity,” she said. 
“We cannot replace the presence of teachers and pedagogical relationships, but we have no choice and must do our best to support principals, teachers, parents and learners while ensuring their safety,” said Italian Education Minister Lucia Azzolina. “We are using social media tools to keep alive the relationship between teachers and students, and keep up their motivation.” 
While the duration of school closures remains uncertain, countries are concentrating efforts on empowering teachers. “We are very focused on giving teachers responsibility for the process of learning and offering virtual learning courses,” said Costa Rica’s Vice Minister Melania Brenes. 
Croatia’s Minister of Science and Education Blaženka Divjak shared her country’s approach which first prioritized tailor-made contents for teachers and is now increasing support to help them develop learning materials independently, take ownership of the process, and feel secure in a digital environment. 
Actions to counter inequalities were raised by several ministers. Italy announced an €85 million package to support distance learning for 8.5 million students and improve connectivity in isolated areas. Peru translated contents into 10 indigenous languages and developed materials on the socio-emotional aspects of education to help learners deal with isolation.

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