Center on International Education Benchmarking

This week’s International Education News shares updates about how Canada, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore are addressing the challenge of transitioning to online and distance learning in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

1. Across Canada, Provinces Prepare for Online and Distance Learning

Across Canada, provinces are preparing for online and distance learning to begin in late March or early April. In Alberta, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange released guidelines for “teacher-directed” learning. The guidelines include curriculum priorities and numbers of hours per week students should be expected to do school work by grade span. Alberta has also updated its provincial online resource library, LearnAlberta, which catalogues over 40,000 resources, lessons, references and full courses for students and teachers grade by grade and subject by subject. The library has been continually updated for more than a decade, and was recently updated with new materials in preparation for the shift to on-line and distance learning. In Ontario, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced a new e-learning website for high school students that will house “high-quality, made-in-Ontario math and literacy resources, created by Ontario-certified educators.” The website will host a set of online courses and, are being developed by the Ontario College of Teachers, an association of teachers in Ontario. There is also a website, TVO Mathify, where students can get one-on-one support in mathematics all day that will be staffed by Ontario teachers. Lecce said the province will rely on Television Ontario (TVO) to provide programming for younger students. It will provide lessons for students in kindergarten through grade 6, beginning next week. TVO will also provide access to YouTube channels offering STEM and literacy programs tied to the provincial curriculum as well as math and literacy games. Finally, a new website created by the education ministry provides additional resources to help parents work with their children, including the full K-12 curriculum.

Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange
Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange

2. New Zealand Launches Websites to Support Parents, Teachers Implement Distance Learning

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New Zealand has closed all schools, tertiary providers and early learning centers for four weeks as the country implements a nationwide lockdown to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Schools have brought forward and extended their previously scheduled April holiday breaks and will now be closed from March 30 to April 14 in order to give teachers additional time to prepare for online learning. To help support the transition to distance learning, the Ministry of Education launched two websites – Learning from Home and Ki te Ao Mārama – that have resources for parents, caregivers, teachers and leaders spanning early learning through senior secondary. New materials will be added to these websites over the coming weeks. The ministry is also assessing students’ access to the internet and working to set up connections, particularly in areas with large populations of students from low socioeconomic status. Students without internet will be delivered hard copies of resources. Parents and caregivers are also being encouraged to contact their child’s school or teacher for support with learning resources. Read more from Radio New Zealand.

3. Singapore Schools Are Open with Home-Learning Options Available as Needed

This week, Singapore reopened its schools after a two week scheduled break.  The government has required students who travelled outside of the country during that period, estimated to be less than 10 percent, to be supported through home-based learning for 14 days before they return to school. “Through the use of technology, students on leave of absence can continue to communicate with their teachers and classmates, and teachers can still track their progress remotely,” said the Ministry of Education’s Deputy Director-General of Education Sng Chern Wei. The Ministry’s Student Learning Space (SLS), which was rolled out nationwide in 2018, supports home-based learning. SLS is an online learning platform that offers high-quality, curriculum-aligned educational materials and resources for pre-primary through pre-university level students. All students, teachers and school leaders in the country have access to it. New materials are continually added to SLS and existing materials are improved to respond to student and teacher needs. The platform also allows teachers to access instructional tools, create assignments using textbooks and workbooks, and make use of real-time video conferencing to connect with students and collaborate with their peers. Read more in The Straits Times and Channel News Asia.
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4. Educators reflect on transition to distance learning in Hong Kong, Shanghai

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Educators in Hong Kong and Shanghai, which were among the first jurisdictions to close schools due to the coronavirus earlier this year, are beginning to reflect on the transition to on-line and distance learning. In Hong Kong, schools and teachers organize on-line learning based on guidance and instructional resources provided by the Education Development Bureau since early February.  More than 80 percent of teachers surveyed by the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers reported spending more time preparing for online teaching and learning than for classroom-based teaching, and many reported difficulties interacting with students. Nonetheless, more than one-third expressed support for extending school closures past April 20, if needed. In Shanghai, lessons for primary school students are broadcast on public television daily, and students use an app to submit assignments to and communicate with their teachers. Teachers in Shanghai have cited some implementation challenges, including additional time spent preparing or grading online assignments and the limited time for teacher professional learning and planning due to the quick transition. Read more from the South China Morning Post and NPR WBFO.

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