On March 3, the Association of Slovenian Educationalists (ZDPDS) organised a roundtable Voice of Researchers: Education During the Pandemic. The authors of the articles published in the Journal of Contemporary Educational Studies spoke about their research. About a year ago, at the beginning of the declaration of the epidemic of the new coronavirus in Slovenia, the editorial board issued an invitation to publish research results on education during the pandemic. Because of the exceptional response of the researchers, the organisers of the online roundtable had a difficult job selecting the speakers. Namely, as many as 31 articles by Slovenian and foreign authors passed the review process.
More than a hundred participants of the roundtable were addressed at the beginning by Dr Danijela Makovec Radovan, president of the Association of Teachers’ Associations of Slovenia, Dr Damijan Štefanec, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Contemporary Educational Studies and Dr Klara Skubic Ermenc, thematic editor of the current issue of the Journal of Contemporary Educational Studies. The latter also moderated the event.
Experts working in education and other fields presented the researches. On behalf of the SIAE, Tanja Vilič Klenovšek, MSc, presented concise findings in ALE during the epidemic.
Highlights of the presented researches and opening speeches show that distance education, despite the considerable efforts of all involved, increased inequalities in society during the epidemic and deepened the plight of the most vulnerable groups. Participation in distance education largely depends on people’s social and economic situation and in being equipped with ICT. In addition, digital skills of both students and teachers, knowledge of the Slovenian language, as well as support (including psychological support) when students need more clarification are necessary to engage in online learning activities. Researches have highlighted the weaknesses in our education system that existed before the pandemic and have now intensified.
However, suppose it is possible to find a positive consequence of distance education, in addition to strengthened digital competencies of all involved. In that case, it can also be the realisation that school is a value and desired goods that we cannot take for granted. Some researchers have indicated potentially fairer, higher quality, more inclusive and more responsive education practices. With the help of NGOs, some schools organised tutoring and voluntary assistance to vulnerable students, which is a soft and non-systemic approach that has proved to be very effective and should be implemented more often. Researches in ALE also showed that highly developed adult competencies are essential for their professional life and integration into society and for supporting their children in distance learning.
Dr Zdenko Kodelja emphasised that the recommendations made by the line ministry for the implementation of distance education were not feasible, and at the same time, did not enable everyone to participate. All the expertise and optimism of employees working in education carried out solely online cannot replace live contact. Teachers need feasible pedagogical and didactic guidelines for efficient work, and students need appropriate teaching materials, as the system cannot be based only on individual ingenuity.
The speakers agreed on the need to continue communication with the MESS, even though it is generally one-way, and to continue making constructive suggestions. Education simply needs advocacy.
Nevenka Alja Gladek (email@example.com), SIAE