After COVID-19 declared a pandemic, one of the main measures to prevent the spread of the virus was the closure of schools, causing more than 1.1 billion children and teens to continue the school year from home. Currently, some countries that have shown a decrease in the number of infections have returned to classrooms using various safety strategies. The rest of the countries are preparing for a gradual reopening of educational institutions, depending on the local context and conditions. Schools everywhere are trying to avoid a prolonged closure that, according to UNESCO, would have negative consequences on learning, health, and safety of the students.
Here’s a look at how different countries around the world are approaching reopening schools:
Israel This country was internationally recognized for its rapid action in controlling the spread of the virus. Their numbers were kept down, so it was decided that schools could resume activities in May, on a staggered schedule and distancing measures. However, in a short time the cases of in the country began to increase, so many schools had to close their doors again.
Uruguay This small South American country of around 3 million inhabitants has shown a very low rate of infection and deaths, thanks to measures taken in time, its efficient health system and the discipline of its inhabitants.
Uruguay found itself in a position to gradually reopen its schools, prioritizing rural areas and vulnerable students in urban areas without access to online education. Finally, at the end of June, schools were opened in Montevideo, the capital, with a hybrid model of face-to-face and online education.
Japan In Japan they have managed to keep the numbers under control, so many of their schools have reopened since June 1, following different measures depending on the district to which they belong, but in general, with strict strategies of staggered schedules, social distancing, silent lunches and daily temperature taking of students before entering class.
Denmark and Finland These two countries decided on a reopening staggered by age, starting with the youngest students. This decision was made due to the evidence of the low rate of contagion among younger children
The Netherlands Following this premise of low contagion among young children, the Netherlands returned to classes without distancing measures for children under the age of 12, however, the number of students in each classroom was cut in half.
Sweden Sweden was one of the few countries that made the decision not to close schools at any time, despite the concern of some parents, especially those with children with pre-existing health problems. It appears his decision did not lead to a higher infection rate, according to a report by the Swedish Health Agency in mid-July. Even the percentage of COVID-19 cases in Swedish children is lower than that of their neighbors in Finland.
The measures taken by other countries in the reopening of schools and the success or failure they have had can guide each school district around the world to create effective strategies adapted to their particular context, as well as to define an action plan that considers various scenarios, for example, in the event of outbreaks within educational facilities.
Please share what’s working in your country or local district for others to learn from in the comments.