Response to Covid-19 during the school year 2020-2021
In Belgium, all regions opened schools on 1 September 2020. After consultation with the education ministers of the various communities and the epidemiological experts, reopening has taken place in level yellow with great vigilance.
In the first week of classes all primary schools welcomed all students at school, making sure that safety measures i.e. distancing, open windows and hygiene practices have been put into place.
For secondary, higher, adult, and part-time arts education (from the age of 12), some additional measures have been applied:
In the yellow and orange level, both adults and students wear a mouth mask in the classroom. This is not necessary during breaks or sports activities.
In yellow level, the presence of non-essential third parties at schools’ premises is limited.
The excursions and extra curricula activities are also temporarily suspended.
In secondary education, students in level yellow are expected to attend school for 5 days per week.
Schools in secondary and primary education (3rd grade) have received an earmarked ICT budget for a total of 35 million euros to prepare for a new phase of distance learning in the case of a new epidimiological wave.
Depending on the epidemiological conditions, adjustments per educational level and on municipality level might be made.
Response to Covid-19 during the school year 2019-2020
Flemish Community (Flanders)
Classes were suspended, but the government recommends offering alternatives - electronic or otherwise and provided guidelines for schools and teachers.
The alternative learning assignments should be tailored to the needs of the pupils. The tasks should ensure that they stay in rhythm (it is not a holiday), keep in touch with the school and are able to practice the lessons learned. It is advised that the teachers take into account the possibilities of the parents to follow up digitally at home. The tasks are optional, but parents are strongly encouraged to keep their children engaged with the learning assignments. These given assignments should not be aimed at discussing new content and they may not count towards the assessment of students. On 3 April 2020 the Flemish minister of education communicated that if the lockdown is extended past the Easter holidays, the schools will begin a period of ‘pre-teaching’ with new lesson materials. This must be done in a way that is feasible and achievable for everyone (teachers, managements, pupils and parents). Teachers will also return to this subject later in the class. More information here.
Most schools already use an electronic learning platform (ELO). An ELO is not only used as a means of communication but also to facilitate distance learning. You can upload work, send assignments, design quizzes, keep track of results ... If a school has multiple platforms, they can combine different functions. With Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams digital classes can be created, teaching materials, tests, and assignments shared. Smartschool also offers possibilities to share documents and screen (Smartschool Live). More complex to activate are Moodle and Xerte. With the closure of the schools, the different platforms for online learning are now boosted. To give assignments or to provide worksheets, video instructions or other forms of interaction, more digital tools than before are made available (for free) to be connected to students and to be productive. These are measures taken for all schools (no distinction for vocational and general education).
More information is found on this page: https://onderwijs.vlaanderen.be/nl/alternatieve-vormen-van-leren
Some other examples:
> Educational publishers do their bit to make the best possible teaching materials available to the widest possible audience in these unpredictable times. That way, students can continue to learn and practice.
> The digital school platform Smartschool ensures that everyone can work together smoothly in one safe environment. An extra feature of this platform, Capisj, is made available for all schools (without extra costs). With it, you can create and share teaching material in a quick and easy way; add a wide variety of sources and questions (video, audio, Kahoot, Bookwidgets, Quizlet, etc.); upload and enrich your own PDF files.
> The VRT (national television) worked out an extra educational program offer on four different channels (Eén, Canvas, Ketnet en VRT NU). For example: on Eén there will be a program with extra educational value for school-going children and young people between 8.30 am and 12 noon during the weekdays, whether they are at home or at school. Cooperation with the Archives for Education provides teachers and students with extra learning content.
To avoid that the most vulnerable students fall behind because they do not have a computer to work at home for school, the Minister of Education collaborated with DigitalForYouth.be (a collaboration between DNS Belgium and Close The Gap vzw) and the King Baudouin Foundation. Together they are distributing 10,000 computers for underprivileged students in Flanders, which will be concluded by the end of the Easter holidays.
A big challenge that remains is the work-based component of educational programs which is the most difficult to organize with distance learning. Students don't have the machines at home to maintain skills, neither do teachers. The educational institutions communicate guidelines for the teaching component (based on the guidelines in education, and companies communicate guidelines for the work-based component. Due to the suspension of the work-based component (due to the lockdown), the possible alternative is a replacement of the teaching component that can be taken at home. These alternatives should pursue the same competencies that would otherwise be learned in the work-based component. Other tools to use as a VET teacher are f.e. videos (and share on Klascement) and webinars. Some sectors have provided schools with useful digital tools to work with at home (f.e. construction, automotive, wood, etc.). The Flemish employment agency VDAB has opened up his 300 free online courses as well.
French Community (Wallonie)
Classes were suspended in the French-speaking part of Belgium and the Ministry of Education has decided to cancel external certification tests in compulsory education.
The Ministry of Education has gathered on a page all the information relating to the measures taken by the Ministry in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. It contains information on the organization of the courses, regulatory information and pedagogical tools available for schools and teachers.
This page, intended for professionals in compulsory education, presents guidelines, tools and resources to facilitate the continuity of learning and assessment. The Ministry states that homework may be provided, but sets out the conditions for it.
Examples of pedagogical resources:
e-classe is the platform of educational resources created by the Wallonia-Brussels Federation in partnership with the Belgian TV Channel RTBF for the educational community. Its catalogue of contents is constantly being enriched and includes:
external evaluations, teaching methods, educational research, guides, tool files, etc. from the Ministry of Education.
- audio-visual resources from RTBF (Belgian TV) and Arte
- educational files, information guides and teaching aids produced by the Ministry
- pedagogical resources and tools selected by the Consortia of universities and higher education institutions
- articles and resources specific to e-classroom, such as a monthly selection of digital tools and applications for educational purposes
The resources cover all subjects and levels of compulsory education (from kindergarten to secondary). They are validated for their pedagogical potential. Themes are regularly created to bring together several articles, resources, videos, etc., related to current events. Access to the platform is free and reserved for holders of a teacher's number.
Tools to keep in touch with your students
In order to provide support and assistance to teachers in this period of suspended classes, e-class offers inspiring and/or immediately usable resources
Concrete resources to facilitate interactions
Several publications provide information on how to equip teachers/headmasters with digital tools to keep in touch with students. They also suggest ways to implement learning activities with a safe distance.
The guide "Digital tools for communication between parents and school for heads of compulsory education" available in French.
The file: "Dare to Collaborate Digitally"
The Belgian TV channel collaborates with the Ministry of Education
In collaboration with the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, the tv channel RTBF proposes a new educational offer for children aged 6 to 12 years old to review mathematics, French and early learning. The program Y'a pas école, on révise! lasts twenty minutes with three moments of revision interspersed with playful and instructive sequences.
The TV channel RTBF provides also on auvio.be/kids, a new platform for 4-12-year-olds, to help the youngest to learn while having fun in this period of confinement. This platform is available on auvio.be kids .
In solidarity with the context that is shaking up our educational community, the Pedagogical Resource Centre of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation is making available its new e-learning platform called "My Class/ Maclasse".
This is a space in which the teacher proposes learning activities for his or her learners. The use of the platform is free, on a voluntary basis and after agreement with the school management.
The platform offers different modules of "turnkey" courses that the learners carry out in a tutored way by their usual teacher. Course module structures are also available that teachers can feed with their own resources for the exclusive use of their class(es).