We’ve all been affected by the Corona crisis. One section of our societies that has been hit pretty hard has been education. Across the board, there has been a huge struggle to adjust and deliver educational plans and experiences that are appropriate for students as young as preschoolers and all the way up to students in colleges and universities. Parents have had to become creative in their approaches to teaching their children from home, sometimes with and without direct guidance from schools, teachers and governments.
Unfortunately, the corona crisis and it’s effect on education has not just been felt in the United States, but in countries all over the world.
This week, I’m truly excited to introduce my PHraseD family to a guest author. Tamas is an English teacher and also runs a blog over at Learn English With Tommy. His post will help to provide a picture of what the Corona Crisis and its effect on education has looked like in the Uk, in Hungary and Germany.
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Corona Crisis and the Effects on Education in the UK, Hungary and Germany
The Covid-19 (corona) crisis has put us all under pressure, whether it be as parents or teachers. Nevertheless, it is interesting to see how different countries reacted to the crisis and whether it had a big influence or the effects it had on education.
Here are the things I will be looking at in the blog post:
Corona Crisis: General Effects of Covid-19
Corona Crisis Effects on Education in the UK
Corona Crisis Effects on Education in Hungary
Corona Crisis Effects of Covid-19 in Germany
Corona Crisis: General Effects of Covid-19
As we know, Covid-19 has spread very quickly across the world, since it was first discovered in China at the end of 2019, leading to what has been called the Corona crisis. Since then, millions of people have been diagnosed and also died of this disease. If we look at three countries: the UK, Hungary and Germany, we can see that as of the 2nd of September, more cases were detected in the UK, as compared to Hungary and Germany. The reasons for this are varied and many people argue about them. Nevertheless, we can see that the policies of the UK government have not worked properly.
Corona Crisis Effects on Education in the UK
Covid-19, also known as the corona crisis, has greatly affected education in the UK. Covid-19 has had a detrimental effect in many countries, including the UK. The UK government has struggled to put any sort of reasonable action plan together to stop the spread of Covid-19 in the UK and to lessen the effects of the Corona crisis.
The Corona crisis has had serious effects on education, but has also had an effect on all sectors of the UK. In actual fact, according to a German radio program , Boris Johnson’s government has been nicknamed the ‘King of U-turns’, (because of the many different U-turns it has taken due to the Covid-19 crisis – German source). Let’s look at some of the U-turns in education policy.
Effects on Education in the U.K.: A-level and GCSE results
No conversation on the effects of the Corona crisis on education in the UK would be complete without looking at the A-level and GCSE results. At the beginning of August, A-level and GCSE results were issued. Normally, the results are determined by exam results. Due to the Corona crisis, teachers were given the responsibility to determine the final levels of their pupils.
Nevertheless and in blatant disregard to the teachers’ assessments, an algorithm created by OfQual (The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation), projected A-level and GCSE results. The grades projected by the algorithm, during the Corona crisis, were in some cases 3 grades lower than those determined by the teachers of school kids and prospective university students.
As you can imagine, there was a lot of anger and disappointment from students and their loved ones. It was not until the 17th of August (more than a week after results had been published), that the British national government reacted. The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, said that the algorithm would be scrapped, and grades would be awarded, according to what teachers had projected.
According to Reuters, an opinion poll said that “75% of respondents thought the government had handled the situation badly, and 40% thought Williamson should resign”. Despite this major U-turn, Mr. Williamson has kept his job. He even said when asked about whether he would resign, “I think what those youngsters wanted to see was action being taken.”
Corona Crisis Effects on Education in the UK: Masks in schools and new timetables
As if the issue with the A-level and GCSE results wasn’t bad enough for the Education Secretary, it was made worse a week later with the announcement of another U-turn, this time when it came to wearing masks in areas such as schools and school buses.
Up until the 26th of August, the British government’s advice for school kids and teachers was not very clear. In actual fact, it seemed that the government was going to advise school kids and teachers alike, to wear masks in areas such as schools and school buses. Nevertheless, Gavin Williamson made another U-turn, when he said, it would be unnecessary for students and school kids to wear masks in closed areas. This came after the WHO (World Health Organization) had previously said that children over the age of 12 should wear masks, just like adults. Furthermore, the UK government’s advice contradicted that of the Scottish Parliament, which said that school kids should wear masks at all times in schools.
This U-turn led senior Conservative MPs (Members of Parliament) to publicly denounce the Education Secretary. One said, “I am sick and tired of the way that we are treating our young people. I feel it’s an absolute disgrace and I really feel the government needs to get a grip and just be certain, get on with it and inspire confidence rather than just completely changing its mind.”
This led to headteachers and unions publicly saying they were ‘weary’ about the new guidelines on wearing masks and also about a new timetable, which Williamson had earlier said ‘was a worst-case scenario’. One union leader was quoted in the Guardian (a British newspaper) as saying “that school leaders felt a ‘weary, resigned sense of inevitability’ at the timing of the new guidelines”.
Corona Crisis Effects on Education in Hungary
It is not only in the UK, where it seems that the Corona crisis has had a big effect on education. In Hungary, there has also been a lot of frustration and irritation about what has and hasn’t been done. Here are a few points.
Corona Crisis Effects on Education in Hungary: Unhappy teachers
The first point that needs to be mentioned about the Corona crisis in Hungary is about teachers. According to the Hungarian Democratic Teachers Union (PDSZ) on the 17th August, the country “is on the doorstep of a second wave”, yet the government ‘”is only talking about ideas and promises before the beginning of the school year.” A quote from the union said that the government is behaving as,( “if nothing were wrong, but if there were to be a problem, we will see what happens” - Hungarian source). It goes without saying that the Hungarian government doesn't seem to be taking this very seriously, despite it being an incredibly important issue.
Furthermore, the union took issues with one of the ideas suggested by the Hungarian government. They described the idea of free internet as “not enough” and said that the child “won’t know how to start to use this (the internet), because it is more important for them to eat warm food.”
Corona Crisis Effects on Education in Hungary: Unhappy parents
For this post, I interviewed a Hungarian mother of three. The mother (Adrienn K.) told me she blames the Hungarian government for schools not being ready. This is backed up by an article on the anti-government website that wrote on the 18th of August, that the government had only sent out the guidelines for schools two weeks in advance of school starting in Hungary. The article further said that “all schools have to be prepared to do online teaching”. Nevertheless, the schools “have to have their own protocols on how this will be done”. - Hungarian source
Asked whether the local government had done enough, Adrienn K. said that they had, but that “teachers, children and parents needed more help than we actually got.” She further added that her school was prepared with equipment for online teaching, but that “we had only two days to get ourselves ready for online teaching, which was (obviously) not long enough.”
Corona Crisis Effects on Education in Hungary: No financial help for poor people
Additionally, Adrienn also said that the government didn’t offer any financial help to poor people. This is backed up by an online anti-government article that those people, who had not been given state help, could only be helped by donations from charities - Hungarian source.
Corona Crisis Effects on Education in Hungary: No way to keep social distancing
Two articles from the anti-government website 444.hu, show that social distancing was not a concern to the Hungarian government. One of them talks about how lunchtimes are the easiest place to infect each other, yet, the Hungarian state hadn’t even thought about this - Hungarian source. The second article from the 21st of August, says that the Ministry of Human Resources (an umbrella ministry for health and sports etc.) said that it was not necessary to keep the 1.5 meter social distancing during lessons. The ministry continued by saying it was “down to parents to not allow any kids into schools or nurseries, who have any symptoms”. - Hungarian source
Corona Crisis Effects on Education in Germany
From the perspective of a teacher, it seems to me that there was hardly any discussion about the effects of Covid-19 or the Corona crisis on education in Germany. Nevertheless, it has been clear for many years that there is a lack of teachers in German schools. Let’s have a look at some of the major points of the Corona crisis and its effects on education in Germany.
Corona Crisis Effects on Education in Germany : Lack of resources for online teaching
According to an international report, only one in ten school kids had access to a computer and laptop for online lessons. In comparison, Singapore recorded almost a third of students having access to computers or laptops for online lessons. (When parents were asked about whether schools were ready for online lessons, 50% of parents replied, ‘not at all’.
One parent I interviewed from western Germany agreed by saying that ‘schools are not well equipped’ and ‘(the school her kids go to) have a lack of computers’. The school her kids go to ‘should have been better equipped with online possibilities’. Asked whether it was the school’s fault or local government’s fault, the mother said it was a mixture of both.
Parents, who took part in the international study, also wished that there was more ‘direct interaction with teachers’. This was backed up by the mother of one of my students, who I interviewed. She said many of the teachers, ‘hid behind German data protection laws’ and ‘didn’t make themselves available’ to parents for discussions.
The Per Mertesacker Stiftung (a charity set up by the former German national football player), also argued that ‘a smartphone is not appropriate for online lessons’ and many children from poorer backgrounds ‘don’t even have their own desks, not to mention their own rooms’. 20% of those children, who are helped by the charity, didn’t have access to any sort of way to have online lessons. – German source
The head of the Bavarian Teacher’s Association, Susanne Arndt, criticized the Bavarian government for not ‘investing quick enough in technology and know-how’. – German source
Corona Crisis Effects on Education in Germany : ‘Lack of political responsibility’
Back at the end of August, a commentary in Die Zeit, a German paper, commented that it was evident ‘how little the education ministers were sticking up for education’. Instead of discussing one of the most important points of the moment, ‘German education ministers all disappeared on holiday’. - German source. This has been confirmed as well by one of my students, who in an interview, said she blamed the national and local governments for not doing enough to prepare the schools. She says that they (the governments) ‘should have thought about a suitable way of preparing the schools’. Asked whether anymore could have been done, a mother of one of my students said, ‘more could always be done’, but ‘it was enough’.
The head of the Bavarian Teacher’s Association, in a Bavarian radio interview, said that despite the need for masks in corridors and playgrounds, she thought that ‘masks would have a psychologically negative effect on pupils’. ‘It will have a big effect on those pupils, who are shy, because they probably won’t want to answer questions, Susanne Arndt, the head of Bavarian Teacher’s Association argued. – German source.
Corona Crisis: Personal Opinion
Reading different sources and listening to those who I interviewed, there is no clear picture as to whether there was enough done in either of the three countries. In my opinion, when I look back at the lockdown period, Germany seemed to have better control of the situation than the UK and Hungary. Nevertheless, it is evident that pupils and parents alike are unhappy with the situation and how it was resolved by governments and schools.
Here are some tips I would give parents:
Communicate more with your school. There are probably lots of parents who are worried about the situation in their schools. The best way to stay up-to-date is to talk to teachers.
Before sending your children to school, make sure you have the most up to date information. Read government websites, check what your local area says in regards to the Covid-19 regulations in schools.
I also have a couple of tips for teachers:
Don’t be scared to talk to parents. You might feel that parents don’t understand the situation, but the more communication there is between the two parties, the easier it becomes to resolve problems.
Keep yourselves informed about the situation in your local area. This might sound obvious, but there are some teachers, who are unaware of the situation and disregard their safety and the safety of the pupils.
I’d like to thank Tamas for taking the time to catch us up to speed on the Corona crisis and its effects on education in the UK, Hungary and Germany. I cannot help but wonder if things would improve, across the board, even moderately, if each country shared and learned from their responses, successes and failures, in education, as we try to navigate the Corona crisis. For more from Tamas, follow him on Facebook and Instagram.
Before You Go
Did this post on the Corona crisis leave you on edge? Are you a teacher looking for a solution to distance learning? Did you learn more about the effects the Corona crisis has had on education? Here are some posts that you can use to take your mind off of some of those effects on education that you unfortunately can’t change, while empowering you to change those that you can.