OECD survey sheds light on post-COVID challenges and opportunities in education

published 15 April 2021 updated 14 December 2021

Educational inequalities and the digital divide were increased by the pandemic. But teacher vaccination, additional support and resources have also been features of countries’ responses to COVID-19, according to a new OECD special survey.

Last year, 1.5 billion students in 188 countries were locked out of their schools as countries dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic. A special survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) tracked the responses by 30 education systems across the globe to the biggest educational disruption ever.

The survey looked at how strategies varied across countries and what the impact of these strategies was in a range of aspects, including the organisation of learning, the working conditions of teachers, and issues around governance and finance.

The results shed light on challenges and opportunities for education systems in a post-COVID world. Its main findings include:

  • The vaccination of teachers has been part of national strategies, with 19 out of the 30 education systems prioritising teachers’ vaccination;
  • The pandemic has accentuated not only educational inequalities within countries, but also amplified the performance gap among countries;
  • 60 per cent of countries have acted to support vulnerable students, enabling them to continue learning in schools by putting in place enhanced health protections;
  • Seven out of 30 countries have increased staffing to alleviate teachers' workload;
  • The digital divide in access to tools and connections remains a major area of concern. Also, there are large variations in teachers' access to digital training;
  • Most countries have found temporary additional resources to meet educational needs.

Education International: Many issues to face in post-COVID education

“Education International welcomes the fact that the majority of OECD countries have prioritised teacher vaccination. However, that's still too few,” said David Edwards, General Secretary of Education International.

He also acknowledged that most countries have put temporary funding in place. However, “withdrawal of these funds can't be an option in the future given the necessity for a sustained recovery in education, particularly, given the loss of in-school teaching time students have suffered,” he said.

Education International regrets the continuation of the digital divide and reiterates that educational recovery must enhance access for all students.

Additional staff, new ways of evaluation

“All countries, not just a few, need to recognise the excessive workload implications for teachers caused by COVID (as Japan has) by paying for additional staff,” he said.

“The fact that, in most countries, high-stakes public exams have had to be withdrawn is an opportunity for major examination reforms to carried out, in partnership with the profession, which would enable evaluations to be carried out of what all students achieve without badging many as failures,” Edwards concluded.

The OECD survey: The state of school education –one year into the pandemic can be accessed here

Access here EI’s survey report: Covid-19 and Education: How Education Unions are Responding here