Distance learning has not caused spike in number of kids missing education

Empty classroom.
Empty classroom. Source: Juhan Hepner/ERR

Data from the Ministry of Education and Research suggests around 1,500 students of general education schools are not participating in learning, while it cannot be said how many such cases are the result of the switch to distance learning as relevant data was not collected before the emergency situation. Local governments do not perceive a spike in the number of students missing studies.

Schools all over Estonia have been on distance learning from March 16 that has been a source of excitement and a challenge for both families and education institutions for the past nine weeks.

The education ministry has regularly asked schools for information on how many students have missed studies.

"Data for last week speaks of 734 such cases in general basic education schools, which is roughly 0.6 percent of all students. It is roughly the same on the high school level," said Kristin Hollo, head of the ministry's external evaluation department.

Hollo could not say to what extent the emergency situation has contributed to the number of such students because no relevant data was collected before the crisis.

"We have no reference point for a comparison with normal times. That would require a similar data request be made outside of the emergency situation. However, feedback from local governments suggests the situation remains stable," Hollo said.

In Estonia's largest local government Tallinn, 189 children are not complying with the requirement of compulsory school attendance on the basic school level and 96 on the high school level.

"We've usually had 150-175 such basic school students and even fewer high school students. The vast majority of them are old acquaintances so to speak. I would say distance learning has not affected these figures," said Vadim Belobrovtsev, deputy mayor of Tallinn in charge of education.

Children are obligated to attend school until they obtain basic education or turn 17. If the school has exhausted its levers for motivating the student to attend class, the local government is involved.

"The parents are then contacted and social workers if that does not help, with child protection specialists and Juvenile Police the next steps – these are the parties to the process," Belobrovtsev said.

If just a few years ago, parents stood to be punished for children failing to attend school, current legislation does not provide coercive measures.

"What we are seeing in practice is that the family is in trouble, concerns run deeper, and that the family needs help or the children do if the family cannot provide necessary support. Fines could be appropriate in certain cases, but mostly they are not," Hollo said.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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