As part of the United Nations’ International Day of Education (IDE) celebrated around the world, UNESCO and IEA jointly release the open access Responses to Educational Disruption (REDS) International Report and International Database (IDB). This event, intended as an opportunity for reflection and knowledge sharing among education stakeholders, offers a timely occasion to share these new and unique insights from REDS.
The REDS International Report provides valuable, cross-nationally, and internationally comparable new data, covering an extensive range of topics associated with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on education, as perceived by school principals, teachers, and students who were directly affected by the pandemic. Insights from REDS data can better orient and tailor policy responses to strengthen education system resilience, especially during disruptions to schooling.
Understanding is the first step to recovery
While COVID-19 has caused educational disruptions around the world, the crisis also offers opportunities for change. Recovering from the pandemic will require us to rethink the purpose, role, content, and delivery of education. This will involve a recommitment to what we know works best in education, and reshaping for better resilience, safety, and inclusivity to ensure that every child learns and makes progress, based on lessons learnt from the disruption.
Data, evidence, and insights are critical to identifying possible directions and topics to work on and to tackle equity and inclusion challenges more effectively. REDS was created in order to see not only how teaching and learning were affected by the disruptions, but also to further evaluate how countries responded and if these response measures mitigated the COVID-19 impact, both across and within countries.
Uniqueness of REDS
While many other efforts exist that collect and provide similar information, they are mostly derived from non-representative rapid surveys and lack this internationally comparable information from schools, collected in a systematic and scientific manner. In contrast, REDS provides robust and reliable data that have been collected based on high IEA quality standards, using representative large, random probability samples.
REDS offers a comparative picture of the situation at the secondary education level, specifically eighth grade, in 11 countries spanning Africa, Asia, Arab region, Europe, and Latin America. The uniqueness of the group of countries that participated really sets REDS apart and speaks to the global character of the study.
Renewed importance of wellbeing
An important part of data released today from REDS offers insights from multifaceted perspective into teacher and student well-being during the educational disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fresh findings from REDS show a decline in teacher and student well-being during the educational disruption, with over 50% of students feeling overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and teachers experiencing increased workload and changing job requirements.
Schools responded to these demanding circumstances by putting additional effort into supporting the well-being of their staff and students, with 50% or more of school principals in most countries increasing priorities for promoting student and teacher well-being during school closures. Despite declines in overall well-being, data from REDS show that teachers felt supported by the school leadership and their colleagues, and most students reported feeling supported by their school during the disruption.
Role of schools beyond academic development
Amid rising Omicron variant cases in many countries, debates have stepped up about the urgency to focus on the social – emotional well-being of students and teachers no matter schools are closed or not. Data from REDS has shown that schools can, and should play the central role in the well-being of the school communities, notably ensuring support for students, teachers and their families. Moving forward, successful educational recovery and transformation will require investing more and better in what is required to build more inclusive, resilient and enabling education systems to ensure that every child does not only learn, but also feels safe, happy and supported to reach their full potential.