16 SES 04 A, Digitalization of Education
Education is an area led by quality, equity, accessibility, ethics and other commitments, which guide the activities of education specialists and reflect the expectations of education beneficiaries, as well as obligations of the countries towards their citizens. The level of realisation of those obligations by the educational systems largely depend on educational policy and its implication by participants of education process: managers and administrators of education, teachers, students and parents. COVID-19 pandemic emphasises the importance of realisation of the policy as a mean to understand the success or failure of that policy. Despite all the efforts, nowadays the educational systems around the world pass through exceptional disruptions and tough achievements in terms of quality of education, justice and inclusion.4
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted society deeply with a majority of students around the world facing the closing down of school and university. Students were left home for weeks, sometimes months, in uncertainty and confusion. Classes had to be followed behind a screen on a daily basis, sometimes for several hours in a day. Education institutions were left with no choice but to adapt and provide an immediate response to the situation. The rapid move to distance learning, the reorganization of evaluation processes, as well as the remote support of their students were among the unexpected challenges that these establishments had to deal with in a very short time.
In the European Union, education policies remain an exclusive and strong domain of national countries. Therefore, the response to such challenges differed from one country to the other. Some countries, such as Sweden, seemed to be more equipped to tackle the challenge. The government had already developed remote and hybrid forms of education prior to the pandemic. The other countries couldn’t quickly response the situation.
During COVID-19 crisis distance learning was the only viable alternative that ensured continuation of educational process. The distance education provided the students of all over the world with an opportunity to continue their educational process and allowed different societies to continue to educate their young generation, turning them into knowledgeable and skilled workforce in future, which is important for promotion of the economic growth and solution of national, regional and global issues.4
Starting on March 16, 2020 and for another month, Armenian schools, preschools and other educational institutions were in a national shutdown following the COVID-19 outbreak in the country. The Government’s decree on the State of Emergency specifies that all educational processes in the country stop except for distance education (article 21). A number of schools announced their online education models on social networks. The Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport suggested a number of guidelines during a Facebook live on how to cope with the education vacuum at a time of a viral shutdown. COVID-19 resurrected the need to explore the challenges and opportunities of distance (online) education in the country.
This research has been conducted during September-November 2020 and aimed to identify challenges and issues related to realisation of education rights in Armenia in the time of COVID-19. The research particularly explores the effectiveness of educational policy in the time of the pandemic, the quality, and effectiveness of educational services provided by state secondary schools according to assessments of different groups, challenges of distance education.
- Teachers and students’ readiness for distance learning,
- Teachers and students’ attitudes toward distance education,
- The level of students’ participation at distance lessons,
- The quality of distance education during COVID-19,
- Effectiveness of educational policy and educational services.
The following data collection methods and respective information sources have been used to answer research questions: - Quantitative online survey among 722 teachers, 867 students of 7th and higher classes and 800 parents. The quantitative online survey was administered to identify readiness of students and teachers for distance education. As well as to assess the quality of distance education and the effectiveness of educational policy. - Qualitative interviews were conducted with educational area experts and policy makers both in the beginning and after final quantitative data collection. The educational experts shared their opinion on current educational system in Armenia and validated survey results. - Document analysis- legal acts, statistical data, sectoral analysis, reports, - Content analysis of educational pages in social media, namely in Facebook platform, processed with MAXQDA program.
The main findings of the research are presented below: 1. Before the pandemic a lack of computer skills among the teachers and the students, insufficient availability of technical means was recorded, and that had a negative impact on the efficiency of online lessons. 2. Most of the teachers need trainings in informational and communication area, including education or learning of electronic management tools. 3. Around 90% of the students participated in online lessons, and the main reasons for not participating were inaccessibility of internet and unwillingness. 4. Due to transition to distance education the students obtained some social-psychological issues, such as anxiety, worry. 5. 95% of the students participated in online lessons with the phone, but the internet prices were not affordable for all the students. The lack of technical means also affected the participation of the students in online lessons. 6. The following positive effects of the pandemic on the education system were observed։ - Gaining crisis management in educational policy, - Development of infrastructures, - Preparation, development and dissemination of educational online resources, - Capacity building of teachers, - Development of cooperation between state-private sectors and donor community, - Legal regulations, - Teachers-parents’ cooperation, - Cooperation within teachers’ community and development of support culture, - Possibility to organise learning process more effectively and inclusively․ 7. The following challenges of distance education during the Pandemic have been revealed։ - Violation of the right to education, - Testing of teachers' computer skills and methodological skills for online teaching, - Lack of monitoring and evaluation system of distance learning, - Uncontrolled and direct influence of the family on the learning process of students, - Lack of physical contact, - Testing of personal skills of children, - Violation of the principles of social justice, equality, participation in the education system․
1.Report on the evaluation of the effectiveness of educational policy in the conditions of the epidemic, 2021 https://erit.am/documents/pdf/98b2f8f11b81657a85af29f6a02f05e0.pdf [5.01.2022] 2.Amundsen, C. 1993. The Evolution of Theory in Distance Education. In Keegan, D. (Ed.). Theoretical Principles of Distance Education: 61-79. London: Routledge. 3.WHAT HAVE WE LEARNT? Overview of findings from a survey of ministries of education on national responses to COVID-19, https://data.unicef.org/resources/national-education-responses-to-covid19/[15.01.2022]. 4. Hanson, D., Maushak, N.J., Schlosser, C.A., Anderson, M.L., Sorenson, C. & Simonson, M. (1997). Distance education: Review of the literature (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: Association for Educational Communications and Technology. Ames, Iowa: Research Institute for Studies in Education. 5. OECD. (2020). OECD Policy Responses to Coronavirus (COVID-19): Combatting COVID-19’s effect on children. Paris: OECD Publishing.
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