14 SES 08 A, COVID-19 and Challenges (2)
The rapid speed with which the COVID 19 infection spread across large parts of the globe compelled governments to put in place measures of social isolation such as quarantine, lockdown and curfew, to slow down the contagion, protect the healthcare system from collapse and save lives. These measures, while necessary, have curtailed social and economic activity, profoundly impacting on the socio-emotional and financial wellbeing of individuals, families, communities and society.
The closure of schools and educational centres have also had a great impact on work-life balance for many individuals and especially working mothers as they are shouldering most of the childcare burden amid the coronavirus outbreak. Parents, including teachers, are juggling to maintain a balance between house-work, professional work and managing their emotions. Parents have been inundated with a proliferation of resources, ideas and content to engage and educate those children. This adds to their anxiety involved in choosing which resources to choose and using these resources.
The current study is highly relevant and timely both in the context of Kazakhstan and more globally, particularly, as the pandemic is far from over with second or third waves of COVID 19 taking place in some countries. This research is focussed on the differential impact of the pandemic on families and how the wellbeing of both groups can be supported by the policy in the context of a global pandemic. Around 76% of teachers in Kazakstan are women (OECD, 2019). The feminisation of the teaching workforce in Kazakhstan, the social expectations of women’s centrality to caring and nurturing responsibilities within households (OECD, 2019), and entrenched gender stereotypes in the country (UNDP, 2020) have profound implications for gender and family relations in a context of homeschooling. Due to the pandemic, women’s participation in the workforce has deteriorated (Alon et al., 2020).
This study investigates the ways the COVID 19 pandemic is impacting on equitable quality education in Kazakhstan through foregrounding education stakeholders’—learners, teachers, parents and school leaders— voices and experiences. This paper is part of a multiple region case study that specifically addresses the findings from parents.
The specific research questions include:
1. How do parent(s) from different social backgrounds, geographical locations, family types, employment situation and rights of residency experience juggling work and life whilst supporting the education of their children? How are these experiences gendered?
2. What has been the differentiated impact of school closure on families’ well-being and relationships?
The theoretical framework, which guided the development of this arm of the research centred around parents’ wellbeing. The Balance Between Risks and Resources theory aims to explain the philosophy around parental stress which may subsequently lead to burnout (Mikolajczak and Roskan, 2018). Stress can take over if there is an imbalance between real or perceived parental parenting expectations and the availability of resources and time to meet expectations (Holly et al., 2019). While the typical demands of parenting can be tough, adding on factors associated with the pandemic adds to the possibility of parent burnout and can affect their overall wellbeing. Several influences need to be considered such as financial security, parents overburdened with tasks such as supporting online and homeschooling for several children, inability to work now that schools and daycare centres have been closed, and no time to consider one’s own emotional health and well-being (Parkes et al., 2015). Single-parent households are particularly at risk of losing income if the parent is now required to stay at home to watch or educate children (USAID 2020).
Research Design and Participants Semi-structured qualitative interviews with parents were used to capture their experiences and perspectives around how the closure of schools has impacted them and their families. The priority was to interview parents in-person as virtual/ telephone interviews are likely to exclude the voices of those most marginalised. Nevertheless, virtual interviews were used in most cases as the quarantine regime was still in place at the time of data collection. Interviews lasted around one hour were held at a time and place that suited each participant using methods that are appropriate to the context (e.g. via telephone or Skype or face to face), particularly taking account of COVID-19 and equitable access considerations. Interview data was gathered via research assistants who lived in each region under the guidance of more experienced researchers Table: 1 Field sites, methods and the number of participants Sites Parents Interview Nur-Sultan (capital city) 6 South 10 North 10 Total 26 Data analysis Data was analysed on an iterative basis to inform and refine the qualitative research instruments as interviews progressed. A fieldwork diary, notes and reflections were be developed in narrative form following each interview and entered into NVivo, along with interview transcripts. The team met regularly to discuss the emerging codes and themes. Manual coding was be done on a sample of data to develop codes and themes. A codebook was then prepared to support the subsequent coding of data into the NVivo software, to ensure a shared understanding of codes amongst the research team.
At the time of this writing, 20 parents from the north, south and capital of Kazakhstan had been interviewed. Interviews included parents from both rural and urban areas in each region, however, all parents interviewed were mothers except one demonstrating that both caring for the children and supporting their schooling had been for the most part been delegated to the mothers who in many cases had been forced to give up their jobs outside of the home. Emerging themes were family stress and challenges of online learning. Parents who had children in secondary school held more positive views of the online learning as these students were independent and could continue their learning with little to no support as long as they had the technology. Among those living in rural areas getting on the internet could be problematic with students having to go onto their roof to get a connection. Parents viewed the lack of internet connectivity as a factor, which further widens inequalities between rural and urban schools and has added to their concerns about their children’s education. Other issues raised was the lack of support for those families who could not afford computers for all their children forcing some to learn via their mobile phones. There were many concerns around the quality of learning for those students still in the primary grades. Mothers are tired and their parenting has suffered as they try to juggle many jobs and now that of having to support the schooling for several children. There is little or no time to just enjoy their children with all the added tasks associated with schooling. Even with all this parents are still very concerned that this form of learning is not of the same quality and children are falling behind.
Alon, T., Doepke, M., Olmstead-Rumsey, J. and Tertilt, M. (2020). “This Time It’s Different: The Role of Women’s Employment in a Pandemic Recession.” https://faculty.wcas.northwestern.edu/~mdo738/research/ADOT_0720.pdf. Holly, L. E., Fenley, A. R., Kritikos, T. K., Merson, R. A., Abidin, R. R., & Langer, D. A. (2019). Evidence-base update for parenting stress measures in clinical samples. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 48(5), 685–705. https://doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2019.1639515. Mikolajczak, M. and Roskam, I. (2018). A theoretical and clinical framework for parental burnout: the balance between risks and resources (BR2). Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 886. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00886. Parkes, A., Sweeting, H., and Wight, D. (2015). Parenting stress and parent support among mothers with high and low education. Journal of Family Psychology, 29(6), 907–918. https://doi.org/10.1037/fam0000129. OECD (2019). TALIS 2018 Results (Volume I): Teachers and School Leaders as Lifelong Learners, TALIS, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/1d0bc92a-en UNDP (2020) Tackling Social Norms: A game changer for gender inequalities. New York: UNDP. USAID (2020) COVID-19 and education: Initial insights for preparedness, planning, & response. https://inee.org/system/files/resources/COVID-19%20%26%20Ed-%20Initial%20Insights%20for%20Preparedness%20Planning%20and%20Response%20%202020.03.12.pdf
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