Young people and children make up almost half of the total population of the Central Asian region. It is obvious, that almost all over the world the Covid-19 impact on the education sector was no less devastating than on the health care system and other sectors of the economy. Thus, according to the World Bank, economic losses in Central Asia as a result of the pandemic are estimated at US $ 44 billion.
Meanwhile, the governments of five Central Asian countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – based on the epidemiological situation and infrastructure capacity in the education sector, have made every possible effort to launch the educational process in the new academic year. The forms of mixed education implemented in secondary educational institutions and strong sanitary measures in full-time mode are aimed primarily at avoiding lagging in the level of child and adolescent education and literacy, and preventing the pandemic from becoming a time of missed opportunities for the younger generation.
So, what are the pandemic-caused innovations introduced by the Central Asian schools in the 2020-2021 academic year?
In Kazakhstan, the new school year has started in a distance learning format for more than 3.3 million students. The only exception is 1934 remote rural small schools, where about 4% (127,000 children) of the country’s schoolchildren are enrolled.
By the beginning of the academic year, the government handed over 500,000 computers for use by children from the most needy families.
The necessary educational content is prepared on Internet platforms. Television has been involved to the educational process. Some channels broadcast lessons in Kazakh and Russian from 9am to 6pm. All hard versions of textbooks have electronic copies, placed in the public domain.
Prime Minister Askar Mamin ordered to ensure the availability and sustainability of educational resources, the quality and speed of the Internet in localities.
In addition, Kazakh schools have opened so-called “duty classes” for primary school students. They cover 17% (530,550 children) of the total number of schoolchildren. Where there are classes on duty, the temperature must be measured at the entrance to the school, classrooms should be ventilated, and wet cleaning is done every break. For the purposes of social distance, the lessons are held in shifts for subgroups with no more than 10-15 children.
However, distance learning is a start solution. In the future, depending on the incidence rate, schools will gradually switch to combined and full-time formats in compliance with sanitary requirements.
In Kyrgyzstan, only first-graders sat at school desks, and the rest of the students continue distance learning. There is an extensive online resource base for remote students.
The school textbooks in three languages – Kyrgyz, Russian, and Uzbek are available at the electronic library https://kitep.edu.gov.kg/kg.
In addition, iBilim and Bilim Bulaga multimedia resources for primary and upper schools have been launched. The portals offer educational materials in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, geography, history, world and Kyrgyz literature, English for grades 5-9.
In Tajikistan, the school year began in mid-August. In this country, all secondary educational institutions operate in the traditional mode, but with some changes. At the entrance to the educational institutions, the duty teacher or responsible person checks the temperature, treats hands with a disinfectant.
In classrooms, students must wear facial masks and carry antiseptic solutions. At the industry arts lessons, the students themselves sew masks.
The ministry of education has recommended several variants of the school day schedules in two and three shifts. The duration of classes in the first grades is 35 minutes, in 2-11 grades – 45 minutes.
Classes in schools on the first shift start at 8am and the latest time to finish the third shift is 6:35pm.
In small educational institutions, private lyceums and gymnasiums, the lessons are conducted in accordance with the established procedure.
The anti-Covid-19 preventive measures implemented in Turkmenistan have also got into the school day schedule.
Face masks, antiseptic sprays, nasal ointments, antibacterial wet wipes have become a mandatory attribute in the backpacks and briefcases of Turkmen schoolchildren.
According to the instructions of the ministry of education, each lesson lasts 25 minutes for first-graders, 30 minutes – for grades 2-4, and 35 minutes – for grades 5-11 with 10-minutes break after each lesson.
Mostly, the schools work in three shifts, taking into account that the classes are divided into two subgroups of 10-15 students. Students seat in a staggered rows. To avoid congestion, all additional entrances to the school premises are open.
During the breaks, teachers disinfect the classroom and ventilate the rooms. In addition, a number of subjects, such as fine arts, basic life sciences, natural science, physical education, labor and biology are held in the school yard, on the sports field whenever possible.
In the pilot mode, small schools in epidemiologically safe areas of Uzbekistan will start lessons on 7 September.
As explained by the minister of education of Uzbekistan Sherzod Shermatov, such an experiment will help “to reveal the full and correct implementation of health security measures in the educational process.”
Country-wide academic year will probably start on 14 September. Depending on the epidemiological situation, there are three possible scenarios – resuming studies in the usual format, online training, and mixed format.
The ministry of public education has held social media survey on population’s readiness to send their child to school during the pandemic. 70% of parents voiced in favor of distance learning at home. According to the results of the survey, the Ministry concluded that the best option for training can be a mixed form of the educational process. At the same time, each parent will decide for themselves whether to leave the child at home for online training or to trust full-time training at school.
The message, posted by the ministry in a Telegram, emphasizes: “Unfortunately, in today’s world, we must not forget that any gaps in the education of our children tomorrow can cost us dearly. According to the World Health Organization, the coronavirus situation is likely to last up to two years, so the decision on reopening of schools should be made with due attention for the health of students, teachers and parents”. /// nCa, 4 September 2020