Education in Ecuador after the pandemic
The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of millions of people in the world. In Ecuador, the pandemic has hit hard, not only in health, if not in social, economic, political, and educational. The pandemic undoubtedly changed the way people developed their activities, particularly in educational institutions, which had to be closed to prevent the spread of the virus. academic activities face-to-face sessions were suspended at midnight on March 12, 2020, as consequence of the declaration of health emergency carried out the day before and when just in that week there were 14 cases of infections by coronavirus. Two years have passed since then and the cases exceed 820,000 in the last week recorded STATISTA (2020-2022).
In higher education institutions, this suspension of face-to-face activities came as a surprise because virtual or online alternatives had not been developed in a timely manner, the use of which was always sporadic and non-systematic. Learning methodologies had to be radically changed as an alternative to face-to-face classes. All this created a challenge for both teachers and students.
The use of virtual platforms became the unique learning methodology, which is here to stay, becoming essential there are educational platforms, such as Microsoft Teams, Moodle, Zoom, among others.
Virtual classes (asynchronous) once again evidenced that, in crisis, the most affected are the poor sectors of the population. Thousands of young Ecuadorians were affected by the lack of internet and by not having a computer, tablet or cell phone; in practice, they were eliminated from the educational system, which was aggravated by the economic measures and budget cuts adopted by the government.
After two years of pandemic, the Ministry of Education announced on February 7, 2022, the return to face-to-face classes with 100% capacity in basic and high school institutions. Similarly, the National COE has determined that, from Monday, February 21, 2022, higher education institutions can also operate with 100% face-to-face capacity.
The transition from virtuality to face-to-face poses new challenges and uncertainties for the education system. On the one hand, there is a need to maintain adequate biosecurity measures in institutions to control the spread of the virus that persists; and, on the other hand, there is the challenge of ensuring quality education (become less in a pandemic) for girls, boys, adolescents and young people in the country.
The need for adequate and trained human resources even, before the pandemic, many countries in which Ecuador is included, already faced a shortage of trained personnel that meet the educational needs of the population. Now with the return to classes, this need is amplified. It is important that the Ministry of Education ensure improvements in the policies regarding working conditions, availability, assignment, and teacher training so that the staff is trained and with the necessary guarantees.
It is a reality that currently, digital technologies play a fundamental role in education, even with the return to the classroom, because a hybrid education will be required, however, the region between 38% and 25% of primary and secondary level and university do not have computer equipment. About everything is more evident in rural areas, where the figures for connectivity and accessibility to technological resources are lower.
Without financial resources coming from the State, it is impossible to move towards a better quality of education. In universities, budget cuts in recent years drastically affect academic and research progress. Today more than ever, the need to invest in education, understood as a central element in the development of a society, has become visible.
Although the return to classes is positive for students who will be able to meet again, who will enjoy the necessary human contact, there is concern about their health, biosafety conditions, infrastructure, and technology, to face the challenges that allow ensuring a quality education that reach most of the population. In this sense, the role played by governmental and educational authorities is transcendental, the former providing resources and the latter managing them efficiently.
It is evident that neither Ecuador nor the world in general was prepared for an educational disruption on such a scale, in which in a few days and without prior planning or warning, universities unable to accommodate all teaching and administrative processes, teachers and students in their facilities, and thus close their physical doors. Therefore, it was against the clock the deployment of distance education solutions to ensure the continuity of the process’s teachers.
Ecuador have faced various problems to try to guarantee the health of students, teachers and workers, as well as enormous challenges to give some continuity to academic activities, other difficulties are also exacerbated such as the reduction of public financing, the drop in income demands, the problems for the recruitment of students and the reduction of quotas and tuition fees in general in private education and also in public education for incorporation. In Ecuador, in this pandemic situation, the financial problems of the crisis worsen economy that the country was already suffering. These situations have an impact, in particular, on public universities in a crisis situation and in need of additional resources to rescue them economic and viability, on the online or distance higher education could be qualified, despite having certain results in recent years, discreet in most of the universities of Ecuador, there would still be many teachers and students without achieving the objectives set forth in matter of teaching, evaluations and the results by transitive transform face-to-face classes to virtual mode, but without changing the curriculum or the methodology. This abrupt entry into a complex teaching modality, with multiple technological, didactic and pedagogical options, and with a pronounced learning curve, can end with suboptimal results, frustration and overwhelm due to adaptation to an educational modality never experienced before without the corresponding training for this is estimated as a probability of development, over time, progressively, the strategies that are being developed, either by knowledge of the facts or trial proof, and enrich and favor the ways to carry out the executions of the courses, the subjects and with it, their topics and learning activities.
From this perspective, it is required that in the future higher education institutions and government leaders commit to supporting teachers in training on educational methodologies in visual environments to be used in classes, referring to students who during the pandemic and after it at risk to find ways to continue their studies. Otherwise, they can potentially become secondary victims of the pandemic and its consequences. The only ways to regularly avoid these incidents and situations to materialize, is the follow-up individualized in this follow-up is particularly important in the case of the most vulnerable students, for whom this can make the difference between continuing their studies or drop out.
In higher education, it is necessary to consider the following:
- Ensure the right to higher education for all people within a framework of equal opportunities and non-discrimination. This is the priority and, consequently, all political decisions that directly or indirectly affect the sector of higher education should be governed by this right.
- Review the regulatory frameworks and current policies, to ensure structural measures that understand education as a continuum where educational trajectories must be strengthened, to minimize the fragility of the most vulnerable students.
- Prepare ahead of time for the resumption of face-to-face classes, avoiding precipitation and offering, from the outset, clarity in communication to the entire academic community and administrative and academic security, so that the faculty, administrative and service staff, and students can be in the new context with advance knowledge of the arrangements, processes, and mechanisms designed to resume activities.
- The resumption of the face-to-face activities should be seen as an opportunity to rethink and, as far as possible, redesign the teaching and learning processes, based on what has been learned in the lessons that the intensive use of technology has could entail, by paying special attention to equity and inclusion.
- Governments should generate consultation mechanisms that allow joint progress in the generation of greater resilience capacity of the higher education sector in the face of future crises, whatever their nature. It's absolutely it being essential to involve students, teaching and non-teaching staff in the design of the responses that emergency situations demand.
The technology can be used as a support tool for the customization of leveling activities. Although there are very solid technological evaluation tools, it seems more advisable, and easier to manage, to modify the instruments to favor a more open and asynchronous evaluation. In this sense, there are some strategies that, despite being rare in higher education.
The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly affected university institutions, actors and processes that take place in higher education, they have developed but the extent is still unknown real impact of the alternatives that have been taken as in other spaces and activities of society, affectations and changes have occurred whose duration and significance are still difficult to foresee.
In Ecuador they must be adjusted to the demands, projects and strategies as initiatives have been carried out, in light of the analysis of social transformations, political, economic and cultural that will be results of the crisis itself, and taking into account the benefits and results of the use of ICT. This is a path and a desirable posture to face the challenges that are taking place and that will continue to be faced for an important period in the future in higher education in Ecuador.
- Álvarez, R. P., y Harris, P. R. (2020). COVID-19 en América Latina: Retos y oportunidades. Revista chilena de pediatría, (AHEAD), 0-0.
- Bajaña Mendieta, I. L. (2020). Incidencias del Covid-19 en Ecuador. DOI:https://doi.org/10.24215/16696581e321 Consultado en: https://perio.unlp.edu.ar/ojs/index.php/question/article/view/6001/5157
- Camaño Morúa, C., Axel, D., Célia, C., Bernardo Sfredo, M., Damián, D. V., y Daniela, P.(2020). Educación Superior y Covid-19 en América Latina.
- Cucinotta, D., y Vanelli, M. (2020). WHO Declares COVID-19 a Pandemic. Acta Biomed,91(1), 157-160. doi:10.23750/abm.v91i1.9397
- Díaz Cassou, J., Beverinotti, J., & Andrian Leandro, G. (2020). CAN Departamento de países del Grupo Andino: El impacto del covid-19 en las economías de la región.
- Estadísticas digitales Ecuador 2020 por Datareportal. Consultado el 23 de mayo de 2020. En: https://www.hablemosdemarcas.com/estadisticas-digitales-ecuador-2020/
- Rojas-Londoño, O. D., & Díaz Mora, J. L. (2020). COVID-19. La transformación de la educación en el Ecuador mediante la inclusión de herramientas tecnológicas para un aprendizaje significativo. Hamut'ay, 64-72.
- Tejedor, S., Cervi, L., Tus, F., & Parola, A. (2020). Educación en tiempos de pandemia:. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 1-6.
- STATISTA. (2020-2022). Número semanal de casos confirmados y muertes causadas por el coronavirus (COVID-19) en Ecuador entre enero de 2020 y febrero de 2022. recuperado 1 de marzo de 2022 https://es.statista.com/estadisticas/1110063/numero-casosmuertes-covid-19-ecuador