Center on International Education Benchmarking

1. Switzerland Apprenticeships Bounce Back Despite Pandemic

August is the month when apprenticeships begin for the latest class of school leavers in Switzerland. The country reports that 90 percent of training places have been filled for the new year, despite economic challenges caused by the coronavirus. Apprenticeships are a popular option in Switzerland, with two-thirds of young people opting for the combined on-the-job training and continued vocational education. Part of the reason for the better-than-expected results is that the government has encouraged cantons (Swiss states) to share information about open positions and the deadline for apprenticeship contract signing was extended until fall. The Apprenticeship Pulse research project, which has been monitoring the impact of the coronavirus on apprenticeships, found 91 percent of current apprentices were back working for their companies by July and only 0.3 percent of current apprentices are not receiving any kind of on-the-job training due to company closures. See the full story in Swissinfo.ch.  

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2. Poland to Give Principals Authority to Suspend Classes in the Event of Covid-19 Cases

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki
Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki

In preparation for the return of Polish students to schools on September 1, the Ministry of National Education and the Ministry of Health jointly released guidelines allowing flexible forms of teaching to ensure the safety of students and staff. The Polish government will revise its regulations so that the school principal will have the authority to suspend classesacross the entire school or for groups of studentsin the event of a coronavirus outbreak. If in-person classes are suspended, schools can decide whether to offer distance education or a hybrid model. See the announcement here.  

3. Alberta Will Replace Inquiry-Based Curriculum

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announced that Alberta will create a new curriculum focused on foundational literacy and numeracy, moving away from the current curriculum’s focus on inquiry-based or discovery-based learning. The new curriculum will be ready for the 2021-22 school year. LaGrange called the move “…a return to proven teaching methods that will set up Alberta students for rich personal and work lives.” Jason Schilling, president of the Alberta Teachers Union, took issue with the minister’s plan suggesting that inquiry-based learning is a pedagogy, not a type of curriculum. “It’s how teachers teach the subject matter,” he explained. He went on to say that the Ministry should involve teachers in the development of a new curriculum. For more, see The Daily Hive.

Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange
Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange

4. Victorian Year 12 Students To Undergo Coronavirus Impact Assessment

Victoria Education Minister James Merlino
Victoria Education Minister James Merlino

Every Year 12 student in the Australian State of Victoria will undergo a coronavirus impact assessment that will be reflected in their Australian Tertiary Admission Ranking (ATAR).  ATAR rankings compare a student’s overall academic achievement to other final-year students in Australia.  The new impact assessment is part of measures introduced by the state government to ensure the pandemic does not hinder students’ future education. The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) will develop a wide-ranging “consideration of educational disadvantage” process to calculate each student’s ATAR. In the past, certain students have been assessed for special consideration on a case-by-case basis, but this process will broaden the process to all students in Victoria. “We’ll look at things such as school closures, we’ll look at things such as long absences. We’ll look at things, for example, such as significant increase in family responsibilities as a result of Covid-19 and we’ll, of course, consider the mental health and wellbeing of students during this period,” Education Minister James Merlino said. With the pandemic affecting Victoria more harshly than other parts of Australia, Merlino said students will now be able to take their exams with confidence they will not be disadvantaged. Read more from The Guardian.

5. New Zealand High Schoolers to Get Digital Profiles For Online Learning, Exams

High school students in New Zealand will have digital profiles, similar to Facebook profiles, to access online learning and exam results. The development of the online platform for students to host these profiles is expected to cost NZD$20 million (US$13.2 million) over four years and is part of a larger multi-million dollar education funding package that aims to help schools cover costs related to the coronavirus pandemic, continue construction and bolster a centralized ICT and cyber security support network. “We expect this [to] work a little bit like a Facebook or Google login where people have an online profile and can login into a wide range of websites and services,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said. The digital profiles will enable students to access digital practice exams, sit for National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) exams online and to check their NCEA results when they are released. Read more from The New Zealand Herald.

New Zealand Education Minister Chris Hipkins
New Zealand Education Minister Chris Hipkins

Read more about how education systems around the world have responded the challenges of school closures and distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic in our archives for August, June–July or April–May.