Education in time of emergency

Version française ici. / Versión española

Dear colleagues,

The sudden forced closure of schools and educational institutions in most European countries in recent weeks, accompanied by a general injunction to maintain “educational continuity,” has plunged teachers, parents, children and young people, into an unprecedented historical situation. As educators, it challenges us on several levels.

Notably, it challenges us on the educational level. The situation has forced teachers urgently to adapt and innovate in order to carry out their mission of distance education. What have we, in this period, privileged and sought to keep of the educational link and of our objectives for the development of knowledge? What have we given up? What can’t we do remotely than we can usually do? What can we do remotely that we can’t usually do? What resources have we mobilized? What are the creative solutions we have imagined and implemented? What have we learned in this process? This site, SILEX lab, is first and foremost a means of sharing, bringing together and discussing these various initiatives together so that what everyone has done is not lost, but can serve everyone, or be re-used, if the situation were to last or happen again – which no one can foresee at the moment. A further goal is also to measure, critically, the limits and the gaps. As the situation has revealed how much the educational processes depend on spaces, material and social, appropriate to their realization, now no longer available but which could perhaps in more ordinary times be better objects of our attention. It also revealed, for many of us, the lack of means, infrastructure and institutional support in this forced digital transition, as well as the ambiguity of the speeches and political choices surrounding it. Silex seeks to bring everyone in this field together in the form of sharing short texts or videos of our thoughts and creations. This in all our languages, and with a conceptualisation of education that brings together teachers in schools, music and sports teachers, educators in cultural and social centers, teachers in vocational schools and universities…

The situation also challenges us politically. This point warrants the sharing of information, exchanges and critical discussions at the national level as well as at the international level. The sudden disappearance of the school as a place of gathering crudely underlines the diverse and sometimes conflicting roles that school plays in society. Its essential role of socialization, which allows children and adolescents to learn together, to build themselves together as active members of a society, was largely neglected in the early days of confinement. While measures to support the economy have been announced all over Europe, we note the glaring lack of measures to support education, faced with major challenges of forced digitalization, and the general use of teachers’ own resources in this domain. We also note, with regard to the countries that we know a little (France and Switzerland), the limited place for educational issues in the political reflections in response to the crisis. Taking advantage of our scientific transnationalism, or to put it more concretely, of the existence of a strong international community of educators accustomed for a long time to collaborate across borders, in two learned societies precious to us, EARLI and EAPRIL, we are looking to reflect on these educational challenges in each of our countries. How were they treated in the early days of the crisis? How is their treatment evolving? What are the themes that are emerging across Europe or specific to certain countries? What are the debates, the arguments, mobilized around the school in time of covid-19, from its closure to its reopening? This work is based in particular on press reviews and national summaries, so that we can better understand, follow and discuss what is happening in each of our countries.

We conclude with an observation: the period provokes all kinds of initiatives and fruitful reflections from people on the front line on these questions, very different from what is being discussed (or not) on the political scene. Educational issues have largely been moved to second (or even third…) line, relative to questions of public health and economics.  SILEX lab therefore aims to invigorate reflections on education in times of covid-19, firstly internally among us, and ultimately to improve media and political visibility and to draw lessons from these reflections, now and after.

We are therefore appealing to you, dear colleagues. We need national coordinators for this platform, which is an open sandbox for us all. The role involves, among others: (a) inviting teachers, educators, parents, pupils, students, to present their reflections on the subject (in the form of texts or videos), and moderating/animating the discussions they provoke ; (b) validating the registrations in our future discussion forum for national contributors (the forum will be by registration only but visible publicly); (c) finally, collecting and commenting on a national press review with the aim of building this broader knowledge of the way in which these questions are approached and evolve in Europe. The site is not limited to European ideas, however, as it draws on our respective communities, EARLI and EAPRIL, it will mainly gather European contributions.

Tell us what you think.

Looking forward to sharing with you soon,

Ilona, Marcelo & Laure

  • Ilona Laakkonen, JAMK University of Applied Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
  • Marcelo Giglio, HEP Bejune, Switzerland
  • Laure Kloetzer, Institut de Psychologie et Education, Université de Neuchâtel, Switzerland

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