Improving education for children with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic

UNICEF and the Armenian Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports embark on a programme to develop the pedagogical-psychological support services in the country

UNICEF Armenia
Child in a wheelchare is learning togetehr with teacher in the Source Foundation's center.
UNICEF Armenia/2020/Grigoryan
03 February 2021

COVID-19 created an unprecedented situation in all spheres of life, including education. The imperative of switching to distance education due to the pandemic further emphasized the need to make an immediate investment in this area, not only in order to apply it in case of possible emergencies in the future, but also in terms of creating ample opportunities for each student's education in the coming months.

After the first week of transition to distance learning, it became apparent around the world that the most vulnerable students, including those with disabilities, were at risk of dropping out of education. The crisis helped to identify some issues that need to be urgently addressed so that children from all vulnerable groups can receive the support they need to continue their education.

In November 2020, UNICEF and the Republican Center for Pedagogical and Psychological Assistance under the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports initiated an assessment of children’s pandemic-related educational needs to address these issues. The assessment findings to be published in May, will lead to a joint programme to improve pedagogical and psychological support services throughout the country for both schools and preschools. The overall goal is to develop the capacity of the Center specialists thereby ensuring the provision of needs-based response and recovery services during and after emergencies. Programme is supported by Swiss Natcom for UNICEF.

“We are hopeful that as a result of this programme we will be able to strengthen the cooperation between pedagogical and psychological centers and parents, as well as promote inclusive early education services in Armenia,” said Marianne Clark-Hattingh, UNICEF Representative in Armenia. “Initially, we will assess the learning and developmental needs of children in preschools, after which we will develop support plans and work to institutionalize their implementation.”

The goal is for partners to make distance education resources and guidelines accessible to every student, including children with disabilities. In addition, a catalogue of assistive technologies readily available in Armenia will be developed, for use by schools to support a more engaging and meaningful learning experience for students with disabilities.

“We plan to train 300 specialists from all regional pedagogical and psychological support centers in the country, as well as provide pedagogical and psychological support to more than 6,500 school-age children who will be able to make good use distance education resources,” said Mrs. Araksya Svajyan, director of the Republican Pedagogical and Psychological Support Center.

One of the issues that teachers and students with disabilities were challenged with as a result of the pandemic was lack of opportunity to adhere to the students’ individual learning plans. This will also be addressed in the framework of this partnership, to enable every student with disability to continue learning according to his or her individual plan. The process whereby the plans are developed and updated will be improved and indicators introduced so that specialists can measure the extent to which the plans meet children’s needs.