Let’s talk about it–A Dialogue with stakeholders on lessons learned on education and remote learning

Stakeholders dialogue on education and remote learning

Electronic assessment for school children
UNICEF/Kyrgyzstan/2020/Dastan Umotbai uulu
25 August 2020

In Kyrgyzstan there are 2.5 million school children. COVID-19 forced all these children into remote learning, creating challenges for children, parents and teachers, but also generating new opportunities through remote and online learning.

While many webinars were being held for Government Officials and Development Partners about implementing remote learning and preparing for the reopening of schools, little attention was given to including the voices of the main beneficiaries and facilitators of these processes, children, parents and community-based organizations. In order to bring these voices to the forefront and learn from their experiences during lockdown and remote learning, the Ministry of Education and Science of Kyrgyzstan (MoES), jointly with UNICEF, organized an online 'teaching and learning' dialogue under the title "What have we learned about education during COVID-19?". This dialogue aimed to have a less formal environment in which everyone could share their experiences during these challenging times when remote learning became the new normal.

Stakeholders dialogue on remote learning
Children, parents, teachers and representatives of UNICEF and the MoES participate in the Education/ECD Dialogue

Danat, a 10 year old student in the 4th grade, described how he had missed his classmates during remote learning, but at the same time acknowledged his interest in the online classes. This balance between challenges and opportunities was a constant theme throughout the dialogue. Yulia Oleinik, UNICEF Deputy Representative in her opening remarks commended the quick response of the MoES to immediately switching to remote learning with a clear and strategic plan.

Stakeholders dialogue on remote learning
Perspective of a participant in the Education/ECD Dialogue, observing Danat, 10, smile while he explains his views

For Akmaral Baitanaeva, pre-school teacher and mother of Danat, her main concern was that in families with several children where there are preschoolers and school children, parents usually gave priority to school children, considering pre-school education as not so important. I observed it a lot among my friends and family. Regarding access to remote learning, the main challenges I observed in my family and in other families are availability of enough technical equipment and internet for every child.

Building on these views, Gerrit Maritz expressed "the need to minimize the digital divide that will impact negatively on the learning outcomes of poorer students, and to balance this need for technology with the need for care and support for learning and also paying attention to the needs of parents". 

Gulmairam Djanbolotova, who is the Director of a Secondary School in Nariman village, in the Osh region, also reflected on the challenges faced by teachers, "there was a lot stress among teachers due to remote learning and not having such previous experience and enough technical skills. Young teachers volunteered to conduct classes for colleagues on how to use Zoom and WhatsApp to help to handle online classes". 

As a mother of 4, Gulmairam also mentioned the challenges she had to face living in a remote area, where her children could not participate in some classes due to electricity outages.

Berdy Sadikov, Programme Coordinator of the Aijan Public Foundation, referred to the difficulties faced by certain parents, "From my own experience of conducting remote teaching I have noticed that younger parents are more active and advanced in this respect than older parents. The older parents do not have the skills to work with gadgets and their smartphones are not suitable for remote learning. They are also used to thinking that teaching is the business of teachers".

Aigina, an 11th grade student in Shamaldy Sai village, in Jalal-Abad oblast, also reflected on some of here challenges, referring to the difficulties she had to access remote learning since some of her classes were broadcasted on television at the same times but on a different channel, than those of her sister, who is in 6th grade. Aigina also stressed how she missed her friends from school during remote learning, a sentiment echoed by the other children on the call.

Finally, Gulbara, mother of Aigina, also provided the perspective of several parents on their experience during the remote learning period, it was hard work to help children with classes. In addition, I had a lot of housework to do. Everything at the same time. It was hard for children too, but we did our best to help our children and teachers. At the end of the dialogue, Gulbara expressed her hope that life will be back to normal as soon as possible.

UNICEF will continue working will all stakeholders in the education sector and provide support to the MoES to ensure quality education for every child, by providing training to teachers to enhance their digital skills and supporting the MoES in producing remote learning lessons.

In addition, learning from the positive experience of this dialogue, UNICEF will promote similar dialogues, including with the health sector, in order to have first-hand access to the reality of how COVID-19 impacts the lives of children, parents and caregivers.