KiDiCoTi – An exploration into families’ handling of emergency remote learning in the first lockdown

The Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission recently published new research into families’ digital lives and remote learning activities in 11 European countries during the COVID-19 lockdown in spring 2020. 

Date 2021-01-21 Author BIK Team Section research Topic excessive use Audience organisations and industry, research, policy and decision makers, teachers, educators and professionals
Blond-haired boy sitting in front of a screen, having online lessons

The research focuses on families with children aged 10-18, in Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and Switzerland. From the main findings, four key dimensions emerged, as follows.

An uneven access to teachers in learning activities

Children in all countries reported spending about half of their online time on activities related to online learning. Almost all children were able to conduct some school-related activities using digital technologies and for many, schools provided them with digital communications and digital learning platforms.

However, the findings pointed to large variations with regards to how children were able to interact with their teachers in learning activities, and how often children were in contact with their teachers through online means. Whereas 75 per cent or more of the children in Italy, Norway, Portugal and Romania were found to have daily online interactions with their teachers, this number was between 50 and 75 per cent in France, Ireland, Spain and Switzerland, and between 34 and 41 per cent in Germany, Austria and Slovenia. Worryingly, some children reported very infrequent contacts with teachers with no access to online activities, the amount varying from 11 per cent in Ireland to less than 1 per cent in Italy. 

Anxieties related to remote learning

The findings also brought out the level of worries experience both by children and parents, with regards to not being able to keep up and falling behind with schoolwork, getting poor grades and failing exams because of the near-overnight transition to remote learning. Interestingly, many children – as high as 40 per cent in Slovenia, Portugal, Austria and Spain – estimated having an increased workload in the online learning format.

Children’s skills in relation to online learning

Thirdly, the report gives an idea of children’s skills (for example, digital skills) and their beliefs in their abilities to cope with online learning activities. Previous research shows that this can be strongly related to their successful learning and also to their well-being. The survey confirms that remote and digital schooling opens opportunities for children to gain new skills with digital technologies, but it also shows that the family background could influence the way in which the children felt about their capacities and beliefs towards online learning activities. In almost all participating countries, children coming from families with below-average household income felt less strongly about their own capacities to cope with online learning activities than other children. 

More support from schools needed

Lastly, families voice the need for more support from schools if such a situation was to happen in the future again. Over 80 per cent of responding parents in Romania, Portugal, Ireland, Spain, Italy and Slovenia would have wanted the school to provide possibilities for their children to do online educational activities with their classmates. Likewise, ideas for extracurricular activities to be done at home would be welcomed by over 80 per cent of parents especially in countries such as Romania, Portugal and Spain.

The full report How families handled emergency remote schooling during the time of Covid lockdown in spring 2020 (in English) is available on the website of the Publications Office of the EU.

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