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Happy holidays and a joyful New Year!

The year we are leaving behind will be remembered as the year lived within the 4 walls, which is probably the most unexpected scenario for all of us who were, at its eve, celebrating the entry into a new decade, almost like opening a new chapter, starting a new beginning. Little did we know what kind of a year is ahead.

However, what can be said for the year we are slowly closing, is that, for the first time, the “we” implied the globe: all the people, all the societies, all the living creatures, the nature. Everything we have been investing into as individuals, as nations, as societies, has been tested and will be evaluated by some future times. Until then, the societies are forced to preserve the existing social relations and to resist the potential devastation of the social subsystems (first and foremost the health systems, but also the economic, educational, social systems, among other) by using the structures and mechanisms initially developed for other purposes – continuous modernisation, progress, economic growth, the preservation of social-economic relations. Not a pandemic.

However, the unexpected challenges brought to surface the new priorities that we so often forget amid our busyness: caring for others, feelings of solidarity, willingness to share freely. They made us realize the importance of something that we used to take for granted – the power of human, physical, contact.

In the face of the world wide pandemic, the Western Balkan education systems took an admirable effort in adjusting to the changed circumstances: organizing on-line classes, courses,  trainings, video material, using  various means of establishing contact and maintaining it. As a model for future endeavours, the collaboration between private enterprises and public institutions was established to allow for free internet connection and additional equipment and tools. According to an ETF report, “the cooperation with the private sector and civil society has accelerated during the crisis in exploring opportunities to ensure coverage, access and innovative solutions to education and training provision” (ETF, Coping With COVID-19, 2020, pp:4).

The effort of all economies can undoubtedly be measured and is visible. It was a prompt reaction to immediate threat that forced the entire world to act fast to it. Even though this pandemic overtook the world not prepared, it at the same time resulted in the flexibility, strength, resilience and ability to bounce back after failures, with new and improved versions of selves.

Nevertheless, we still need to deal with the social and economic impact of the epidemic in the Western Balkans as well as constantly improve ways of delivering services to various segments of population in this changed reality. How do we ensure quality teaching and learning? How do we reach the pupils that mass digitalisation and closed schools left behind? What is the impact of home schooling on parents that took the role of teachers and on pupils that for various reasons had not had this type of support? Are all teachers making par when it comes to digital skills? What can we do to support them in the future?  Which institutional and system level mechanisms need to be adjusted to have better response in the future? To that end, ERI SEE Secretariat, within its scope, does what it can. We continue with studies and evidence-based policy recommendations, support activities on various issues relevant for stakeholders, sustaining regional cooperation in different formats to continue education and training developments, bringing experts, practitioners, institutions together for better results.  A part of our contributions in making this year productive and fruitful, despite all, is described in this Newsletter.

We thank all our partners, colleagues and friends for making this year warm, caring and worthwhile, and for helping our mission to materialize.

We wish you a different 2021 – filled with all the connections, things and experiences that we missed in 2020. Have wonderful holidays and a happy, healthy and joyful New 2021!

ERI SEE Secretariat

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