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Flemish schools prepare to reopen with 'preteaching' online

13:01 09/04/2020
From Flanders Today

Schools in Flanders are preparing to resume teaching online after the Easter holidays, with a view to re-opening classrooms before the summer holiday. In an approach dubbed ‘preteaching’, pupils will start working on new material at home, and then revisit it when schools eventually re-open for lessons.

Schools are currently enjoying a two-week holiday for Easter, giving pupils, teachers and parents a well-earned break from the online lessons that rounded off the last term. It now seems unlikely that they will return to normal lessons after Easter, so the government of Flanders has issued guidelines for continuing education online.

The difference now is that pupils would normally be starting work on new material, rather than finishing off topics they had begun in class. So the plan is to give them a first taste of this new material online, then revisit it in class when the schools reopen.

“I’m concerned that students will drop out if they are only presented with old learning material after the Easter holidays,” explained Ben Weyts, minister for education in the Flemish government. “Through this ‘preteaching’ we can also prepare for the reopening of schools.”

Guidelines issued to schools say that pupils should spend a maximum of four hours each day on school tasks, half the learning time of a normal school day. “Online independent learning is more intensive than learning in the classroom, so we have drawn clear boundaries,” Weyts said.

Similar boundaries have been laid down for parents, who are only supposed to be actively involved in home learning for a maximum of two hours each week. “Some parents have been sitting with their children for many hours, with the very best of intentions, but educators warn that this can have the wrong effect,” Weyts explained. “Children must have the confidence to start working independently. Otherwise they will become dependent on Mum or Dad, and they will not be ready to go back to school.”

Schools have been advised to organise an online briefing for parents to explain the aims of preteaching, followed by weekly updates. The choice of material to be covered by preteaching is down to the schools, since they know their pupils best, said Weyts.

But he has asked them to focus on the essentials and to avoid too much testing. “Short evaluations are possible, to give pupils feedback, but now it should mainly be about taking on course material.”

Meanwhile, thousands of laptops are being delivered to socially vulnerable students who do not have access to computers at home. Weyts has asked schools to pay special attention to pupils who may have struggled to take part in online lessons in recent weeks.

Photo ©Virginie Lefour/BELGA

Written by Ian Mundell (Flanders Today)