All activities requiring the physical presence of students in schools were suspended in all pre-university level schools, including vocational education and training (VET) from 11 March.

Since March, online learning has been provided. Face-to-face learning restarted on 2 June (12-26 June for VET learners). Schools reopened only for learners in the last year of lower and upper secondary programmes to help prepare for the national exams, including certification exams in VET. For learners with personal or family health problems, attendance is optional and decided by parents; online training replaces physical classes in this situation.

In April 2020, the Ministry of Education and Research (MER) issued guidelines for creating / strengthening online learning capacity and introduced:

  • monitoring the participation in online teaching and learning;
  • relevant information for teachers, school managers and inspectorates to support and improve access to online teaching and learning; this was uploaded in the education database SIIIR;
  • analyses on the access of learners, teachers and schools to resources for online learning;
  • teacher obligation to provide feedback to each student on his/her online work;
  • delegation to the school management and teachers of decisions on selecting platforms/applications and open education resources for online learning;
  • the digital portal (see details below).

Online resources

In March 2020, online teaching and learning was introduced, initially as a recommendation; in April it became compulsory to ensure continuity of learning during the outbreak.

Applications that have been used for online teaching and learning include Google Classroom, Google Meet, Google Hangouts, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Livresq, Webex Meetings, Windows 10 and Office 365 applications, Skype, WhatsApp. G Suite for Education tools was offered free of charge for schools by the ADMA application synchronised with SIIIR.

MER has introduced a digital platform offering relevant, appropriate, validated and recommended e-learning platforms and online learning resources in one place. It hosts tutorials and other learning materials designed to train and support teachers in order to design, implement, evaluate technology-assisted learning and manage learner activities on online learning platforms. The platform capitalises on experiences and results of CRED (ESF joint financed project) aiming at providing open educational resources for learning communities and helping ensure widespread use of new technologies in teaching and learning.

CRED and other projects, NGOs, universities, IT companies and individual professionals, learning and business communities have organised webinars for teachers (including VET teachers and trainers) on the use of online work tools free of charge.

Vulnerable groups

At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, MER ran a quick survey in primary and secondary schools. This helped identify learners who lack electronic devices and internet connection, mostly in the rural areas. MER took the initiative to support online learning and invited sponsors, mobile and internet providers, various private companies and NGOs to engage.

About 250 000 learners (9% from the total population of learners in State pre-university education) do not have devices and internet connection for online learning. While, the Euro 200 programme offers financial support (EUR 200) for learners to buy a PC, only those from very poor families can benefit. Learner access to technology is uneven. School inspectorates and schools, in cooperation with local authorities also support providing access to online learning for learners in need.

By 2020/21, the EUR 30 million national programme School at home will support purchase of digital devices with internet connection for schools to aid distance learning for disadvantaged students for an estimated 250 000 learners.

Informing learners about hygiene and safety

In May 2020, a joint order of the education and health ministers was released for the prevention and control of Covid-19 in schools and during exams. Regular information in this respect is provided by official websites and mass media; information posters are available in all spaces where learner activities take place.

School boards develop and approve their own procedures and school management is responsible for the implementation of measures in compliance with legal regulation in place for preventing Covid-19 spread. School inspectorates monitor the measures implemented by schools and report to public health authorities.

The main compulsory measures in schools include: temperature measurement at the entrance, protective materials and equipment, cleaning and disinfecting, access rules and fluxes, social distancing, reduced duration of class hours, and information messages.

Schools may take other additional measures in collaboration with local public authorities to prevent and combat Covid-19.

Practical training in companies

Practical training in companies was with the school closure.

Despite lockdown or reducing activities in some branches of the economy, there are examples of good practice from(complementing the theoretical lessons done by school teachers) using online tools. These include demonstration/simulation, training for the use of specialised software applications (such as CNC programming), homework and tests, student guidance for preparing projects for final exams, and workshops to develop key competences for transition from school to work.

According to current regulation, schooling plans for EQF level 3 initial VET programmes are based, as a general rule, on written requests from companies (with no exception for dual form). Recently asked (in May) about their concluded a few months ago for the next school year, ; only about 1% cancelled the partnership agreements and 1.5% reduced their work-based learning places for initial VET learners.

Assessment and final exams

According to MER guidelines, during school closure. Where there are not enough grades (minimum two, including grades for online work) to conclude learner assessment for the subject/module, the average grade from the first semester can also be considered in addition to, or instead of, grades from the second semester.

In VET, for modules studied only in the second semester, assessment can be based on a written test if it is not possible to take account of online learning.

Given the Covid-19 pandemic context, in the current school year in VET for certification of qualifications are . The practical test for certification at EQF levels 3 and 4 has been replaced by a project aiming at highlighting the specific activities of the qualification, based on general and specialised technical learning-outcomes units.

Main challenges and conclusions

Most companies are still willing to be involved in providing initial VET training. The uncertain prospects for the pandemic and economy call for reflection on appropriate measures / incentives to keep companies involved in training learners in times of crisis.

Examples of good practice from may help , and develop specialised and key competences to support transition from school to work.

Online education has revealed its potential for modernising and diversifying teaching and learning methods along with challenges in terms of developing digital competence and teaching approaches. it has also provided access to technology for disadvantaged learners.

Additional reading and legislation