COVID-19 pandemic – a stress test for the training systems of the partner countries
COVID-19 is creating serious challenges for the vocational education and training systems in all countries. GOVET has been investigating the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on VET and on the labour market in selected countries since April 2020 and has also been looking at measures introduced in order to stabilise the systems.
Many countries entered a hard lockdown in the spring of 2020. The direct effects of this were felt by supply chains, by infrastructures, by whole sectors such as the arts, entertainment and events industry and by training systems in particular. These impacts are still continuing in some cases at the time of compiling this article (mid of 2021). The virus and its variants are determining global national economies, which are in turn deploying various strategies and measures in a bid to return to normal everyday life. The ramifications for the training market are already grave. Companies are fighting for their very existence, and young people are also especially affected. GOVET has been documenting these findings over a period of eighteen months in reports on the situation in partner countries of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Individual analyses have been prepared to shed light on the status quo and on developments in Costa Rica, Ghana, Israel, Italy, Russia and South Africa. The most important sources of information are the ministries and their agencies or delivery organisations on the ground, German diplomatic missions and chambers of commerce and industry abroad, institutes and foundations in the countries, and the local media landscape.
Some of the countries investigated have recorded increases in infection numbers over recent weeks (publication date of the article July 2021). Costa Rica reintroduced contact restriction measures and closed schools until mid-June without offering remote learning as an alternative. This is a significant departure from the digital teaching concepts that were previously embraced, although these were shown in retrospect not to have reached a considerable number of pupils. Measures were tightened in South Africa too. The country is being forced to contend with manifold social repercussions, and the pandemic is also exerting a particularly negative effect on vocational education and training. Financing problems in the VET system are becoming more urgent due to the fact that all companies were exempted from having to pay the training levy for a period during 2020. The introduction of new curricula has been delayed, and learners in the training sector were four times less likely to have access to the Internet during remote teaching. The first serious impacts of the lockdown and of remote training have also become visible in Israel. Disadvantaged young people in particular have been detached from the learning processes to a greater degree, and the psychosocial effects are drastic. The government has now slightly toughened the measures aimed at stemming the virus in order to prevent the Delta variant from spreading.
An easing of the current situation can be identified in other countries such as Ghana. Following the closure of vocational schools for nine months, during which time no remote teaching was available (apart from for the examination cohorts), all pupils were able to return at the start of the year 2021. But this long break has left its mark, and the focus now needs to be on closing the gaps in learning which have opened up in education and training biographies. A multitude of digital initial and continuing training programmes were developed in Russia. These were especially aimed at employees and trainees, who were able to complete short courses to gain additional qualifications.
The ongoing problem situation will result in medium and long-term (collaborative) tasks for international VET cooperation in future. Active networking with partners is allowing information to be exchanged regarding successful national approaches, and the potential to adapt these to other countries is being debated. The GOVET survey of countries helps identify formats, instruments and provision by pinpointing and collating important dialogue topics and requirements.
Acting on behalf of the BMBF and using its regular COVID-19 investigations as a basis, GOVET carried out bilateral workshops at the beginning of 2021 during which networking took place regarding experiences and examples of best practice.