Education Interrupted

By Alexander Thomas, student at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University
For the 7.5 million students living in Ukraine, Russia’s war has significantly disrupted their education, to say the least. Since the full-scale invasion began, roughly six million Ukrainians have fled to neighboring countries — 665,000 students and 25,000 educators are included among them. The latest estimates show that eight million Ukrainians are currently internally displaced and over 74% of them have children in their household. What’s more, 900 educators have joined the armed forces since Russia first attacked Ukraine, according to Education Minister Serhiy Shkarlet.

The widespread destruction of schools and other educational institutions throughout Ukraine has also contributed to the disruption of education services. The Science and Education Ministry reports that since February, 1,819 schools and universities have been damaged and 209 have been completely destroyed. The Education Ministry also unveiled a new initiative to track and provide live updates on schools, universities, kindergartens, and orphanages that have been damaged or destroyed by the Russian military.

At the same time, the ministry also reports that 86% of schools have officially resumed classes, albeit online or through distance learning to cater to displaced students in conflict zones and refugee students abroad. University students and children in grades 5–11 have access to the AllUkrainian Online School platform, which was established at the beginning of the pandemic for education continuity as COVID-19 brought in-person learning to a halt. 

The initial investment in the program at the beginning of the pandemic has proven fruitful; daily traffic for the platform has grown 20-fold since the start of the escalated war, though asynchronous lessons have become common practice. Notably missing from AllUkrainian Online School are crucial early learning materials and support for preschool through fourth-grade children. 

As the school year comes to an end, the question of what the fall will look like for students and teachers across Ukraine remains. This will be decided on a regional basis, by joint commissions that will judge the danger of a return to the classroom. Education Minister Serhiy Shkarlet has insisted that “security must come first.”

Prior to the pandemic, Ukraine’s quality of education consistently performed at the same level as its Eastern European neighbors, though projections for the fall show that learning outcomes will be below the lowest-performing countries in Europe. Even with expanded access to online tools, many students in Ukraine will likely not return to school in the fall, solidifying the likelihood of substantial long-term rifts in education in the future.

This piece is republished from Bear Market Brief.

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