Mr. Tale Heydarov is the Chairman of Gilan Holdings

In recent months, billions of people globally have been sent into lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 and its impact on public health. With schools, colleges and universities in most countries still shut, if not partially, the lockdown is proving to be a significant challenge for most young people and working parents. Though the world is progressively emerging from lockdown, we need to collectively ensure that not only are those vulnerable to the virus protected but that our students and their education aren’t prejudicially impacted. It therefore begs the question - should  students return to school and higher education? 

In the UK, over 1,500 paediatricians and child health specialists wrote to the Prime Minister urging the government to publish plans for reopening schools. They claimed that the closure “risks scarring the life chances of a generation of young people”. Additionally, a Norwegian study found that for every week a child misses out on formal education their chances of attending university and lifetime earning potential are seriously reduced. This is even more a risk for students on the precipice on entering higher education. We also need to consider the non-measurable impact. The centres of education are undoubtedly crucial for both the mental health and development of social skills for every student – online tutorials can never replace the joy of studying in a classroom or meeting and conversing with friends.

In Azerbaijan, the quarantine regime has been extended to the end of August with significant restrictions in place. Educational institutions were closed early on in the crisis on 3rd March, with over 1 million students and 100,00 teachers transitioning to an online learning model. We are yet to hear about the date for reopening schools and universities. Cities such as Baku, Jalilabad, Ganja and Lankaran continue to face greater restrictions. Under the current rules, citizens are allowed to leave their place of residence only after obtaining permissions via text – an approach used to curb further spread of the virus. Yet, as other countries begin to ease their lockdown measures, it’s time to decide whether the health risks posed by COVID-19 outweigh the social risk to pupils who have largely been overlooked throughout the pandemic. 

Health Risks

COVID-19 undoubtedly poses a health risk to large numbers of people around the world, with the death rate climbing globally above 550,000. These numbers cannot be overstated. Though Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, Chairman of the Winton Centre for Risk at the University of Cambridge has said that children are at a higher risk of being struck by lightning than they are of dying from COVID-19. In the USA, those aged 0–17 years old account for 0.06% of deaths attributed to the virus, 0.02% of whom did not have any known pre-existing conditions. This is important to note given the apparent risk to children and adolescents is that much smaller compared with the general population.  

Advertisement

That’s not to say there is not a significant health risk to young people and those around them. While young people are far less likely to have pre-existing conditions that put them at a higher risk of the virus - some do. Many of them also live with family members that are in the high-risk bracket. The wellbeing of teaching staff must also be considered. If schools, colleges and universities were to open, tremendous efforts should be made to ensure the safety of all those attending it. One way of doing this is to minimise physical contact. The centres of education should amend the layout of classrooms, move desks further away and where possible, reduce the number of students in a single class to minimise contact between one another. Another solution would be to stagger break times or start times. We must take every precaution to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our young people and teaching staff. 

In these extraordinary circumstances, attendance at educational institutions cannot be mandatory – especially in areas where there has been a resurgence of the virus. While the loss of education could be detrimental to attainment levels, physical health and wellbeing must be at the forefront of our decisions. Otherwise, what was the point of closing these centres of education in the first place? 

Waiting for a vaccine 

Some have insisted we wait until a vaccine arrives. But, waiting until then would mean many students missing out on almost half a year of education, if not longer, causing irreparable damage to their life prospects. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), nearly 1.6 billion students in 190 countries has thus far been affected – the equivalent of 90% of school-age students globally. According to Dave Marcotte, a professor in public affairs at the American University in Washington DC, about 25% of what is learned during the academic year is lost over the course of the summer. The educational institutions are currently looking at a six-month hiatus, not just six weeks. For our young people, we must do all we can to ensure that they have every opportunity to learn. If that means educational institutions and governments breaking their fiscal rules to ensure that home and online learning is widely facilitated through technology, so be it.  

Inequality 

The closure of educational institutions has brought to light the worsening disparity between private and public education. In the UK, the Institute of Education at University College London found that 31% of private, fee-paying schools are providing four or more online lessons a day, in comparison to only 6% of government-funded state schools. Additionally, 71% of state school pupils have received less than an hour’s teaching a day during the pandemic. The disparity between the haves and have nots must be corrected. 

In conclusion, it is clear that educational institutions must reopen, albeit with utmost safety, to ensure that the education of our young people continues unabated. However, this needs to be done in the safest way possible for students, teaching and other staff. It’s clear that the pandemic has opened up new and much-needed debates on the direction of education, such as the introduction of more online learning, the issue of providing accessible learning technology for all and the ever-widening inequalities between public and private education. But for the moment, we need to ensure that young people aren’t hindered by this cruel virus for the rest of their life. The pandemic has shone a light on an important element – let’s invest in better learning facilities for our young people today so that they can build a better tomorrow.

Mr. Tale Heydarov is the Chairman of Gilan Holdings, Founder of the European Azerbaijan School, Azerbaijan Teachers Development Centre, Libraff bookstores network, TEAS Publishing House, and until recently served as the President of Gabala FC football club (Azerbaijan Premier League) and Gabala Sports Club.

You may also be interested in these articles:

Advertisers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page