The impact of COVID: the opinion of NGOs
Claude Vivier Le Got is a member of the Bureau of the Steering Committee for Education Policy and Practice of the Council of Europe and has chaired the Education and Culture Commission of the Conference of INGOs. Since 2015, she is President of the FEDE, Federation for EDucation in Europe, an INGO gathering more than 500 higher education institutions in 40 countries.
She founded and chaired for 30 years an international institution of higher education in cultural management, was a member of the board of the French Enterprises and Entrepreneurs Federation (FEEF) for 20 years, a city councillor and deputy mayor for culture and higher education for twelve years. She has published works on the management of arts and culture. Claude Vivier Le Got is a Knight of the Order of Academic Palms, Knight of the National Order of Merit and Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters.
Mobilized NGOs, links between civil society and institutions
Civil society organizations working "for access to quality education for all" have had to change their institutional strategies by reassessing their priorities. There is a wide variety of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in education. These structures do not have the same objectives, the same scope of action, the same financial means or the same political weight. Moreover, they do not focus on the same subject and address quite different themes and priorities. This great diversity is an asset. NGOs are recognized for their expertise and their ability to deal with educational issues that are neglected by governments. This ability to move the lines and find quick answers to complex problems can be seen as their common denominator. NGOs play a crucial role as a compass in the orientation of public education policies.
There are countless examples of positive actions by NGOs to promote quality education. They are also the ones to provide concrete solutions for the most disadvantaged and to vigorously promote the achievement of United Nations Strategic Development Goal 4. If we were to choose only one criterion, it would be that of responsiveness: education NGOs have been more mobile and responsive than institutions in setting up organizations to maintain social ties and education. By maintaining their proximity to young people and families, they have helped to provide an organizing structure for the most fragile, to fight discrimination against girls and to protect children against domestic violence.
A "generational catastrophe" according to the UN
In 2020, the coronavirus crisis disrupted the learning process for more than 1.5 billion learners. UNESCO estimates that more than $337 billion will be taken away from education budgets as a result of the economic downturn. Nearly 24 million children are at risk of dropping out of school and will be denied access to education in the coming years. The pandemic has accentuated inequalities, particularly affecting the most vulnerable populations, where NGOs play a major role. The generalization of online education has divided populations and isolated territories. Some populations suffer the double penalty of being disadvantaged in areas without digital coverage.
Isolation and powerlessness
The lack of social connections with peers and professors has caused psychological distress and isolation. Online courses have increased the university dropout rates, reinforcing withdrawals and the feeling of failure. There is a sharp decline in the number of PhDs graduating in 2020. The integration on the job market by means of an internship, an apprenticeship or a first job is impossible in some sectors, particularly those of the events industry because companies have closed their offices and generalized teleworking. The circle of isolation closes doubly on the student.
Distrust in graduates
A negative buzz about the value of diplomas and graduates is spreading dangerously both within professional circles and within the education sector itself. In 2020, reservations about the reliability of examinations have emerged, leading to a certain distrust of the value of qualifications. In 2021, it is the quality of distance learning that is under attack, both in terms of the content disseminated and the methodology used. We see concerns about the social integration skills of future 2022 graduates. They will have experienced almost three years of solitary education at home, and their ability to work in a team, to set up collective projects, to integrate a different socio-cultural environment, is under question. In eighteen months, the coronavirus has killed the hopes and perspectives of a whole generation of millions of young people.
School principals, true captains in the storm
They have been on the front line to absorb the criticism of students and teachers in the face of multiple orders and counter-orders given by the various governments. They had to manage the new standards of the premises while reassuring that classes would be maintained in an atmosphere of permanent doubt fed by unbridled social networks. With the teachers, they set up fixed appointments, homework assignments and exams in order to create opportunities for students to return to a certain normality rather than additional constraints. By providing benchmarks, they maintained a sense of continuity and structure and offered their students the opportunity to project themselves.
Democracy under attack
The will of governments to privilege the sanitary aspect by deciding on the application of territorial confinements and by multiplying the restrictions has triggered the deprivation of freedoms imposed on citizens, even in the most solid democracies. The education sector has had to reinvent itself on the run and often at a groping pace. The great forgotten ones were and still are the places of tutoring and linguistic accompaniment that welcome mainly disadvantaged populations.
Each crisis has its own set of innovations
Initiatives have allowed for the continuation of teaching and training activities, on radio, television or in the form of teaching kits for home learning. Distance learning options have been developed through the intervention of NGOs committed to ensuring educational continuity. Many parents have become aware of the complexity of the teaching profession, which will result in a revaluation of the education profession in some countries and more appropriate public policies to attract and train more candidates.
Recent innovations have shown promising prospects, but these changes can only be sustainable if no one is left behind. To remain relevant, schools will have to reinvent their teaching environments so that digital technology broadens and completes, but does not replace, the relationship between learners and teachers, particularly by changing the teaching frameworks in the face of the growing importance of continuous assessment and dematerialized evaluations.
The need to act together for quality education
To prevent the educational crisis from degenerating into a catastrophe for an entire generation, NGOs consider that all actors must act together as soon as possible and fight against the decrease in budgets.
Education is not only a fundamental human right, it is a right whose realization directly affects the exercise of all other rights. When education systems do not work, peace, prosperity and the proper functioning of societies can no longer be guaranteed.
In a world of ever-increasingly restrictive rules, education and training represent vectors of meaning and structure the perspectives of learners. This crisis has pushed NGOs to innovate, adapt and modernize in order to implement tools that take into account the specificity of educational institutions and the singularity of each learner's itinerary for a quality education.
In this context, NGOs are involved in achieving the following objectives:
- redefine the right to education to include connectivity;
- promote blended learning (face-to-face and distance) and recognition of informal education;
- prevent school dropout, especially among marginalized groups;
- strengthen school support and linguistic assistance, particularly for young migrants;
- make the education sector more attractive and better prepare teachers for their profession;
- strengthen learning policies;
- promote partnerships between NGOs, public authorities, businesses and international institutions such as the Council of Europe, UNESCO and the European Commission.
Claude Vivier Le Got
President of the FEDE
 The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) n°4 of the UN Agenda 2030
 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report entitled The state of school education - one year into the COVID pandemic (March 2021)
 UN Policy Brief: Education during COVID-19 and beyond (August 2020)
 Article from the French newspaper Le Monde of January 30, 2021 Communication, advertising, event management... The broken dreams of young graduates
 Article from the French newspaper Le Monde of February 12, 2021 For the "Covid promotions", the fear of discounted diplomas
 The various assertions in this paragraph refer to the multiple discussions that have taken place between the FEDE, the directors of its member schools, employers and its many institutional partners, since March 2020 and to the evidence on the ground.
 Article from the French newspaper Le Monde dated February 9, 2021 L'effet cicatrice ou les carrières abîmées des jeunes diplômés de la "génération Covid "
 Article from The Conversation online media on April 7, 2020 Teachers are critical in this coronavirus crisis. Have we forgotten that?
 Article from the French newspaper La Voix du Nord of January 8, 2021 In Tourcoing, students, confused by the Covid, turn to the tutoring
 Article from The Conversation online media on April 6, 2021 How the COVID-19 pandemic may have changed university teaching and testing for good
 These main objectives are the synthesis of the reflections on the subject of the NGO members of the Conference of INGOs (COING) of the Council of Europe, of the International Conference of NGOs of UNESCO and of the COING of the International Organization of the Francophonie (OIF), three structures representing the civil society to which the FEDE belongs