COVID–19 pandemic, means empty schools, a strange interval for tens of thousands of students, an unidentified future for thousands of teachers, an indefinite forthcoming period…
How will we finish the year, what will happen with the grades, how are we going to teach now, whether we will have to learn new teaching methods, how will this affect our future professional lives?
A quick reaction was needed in Montenegro, like elsewhere. One of the first to tackle those questions was the Montenegrin Association of Pedagogues and the authors Katarina Vučinić-Marković, Vanja Rakočević and Olivera Marković, and its book reviewer Saša Milić, PhD from Montenegro University. They voluntarily produced and published the very first Manual Basic Methodological Guidelines for Organizing and Implementing Remote and Online Teaching/Learning in Emergency Situations some two months after the outbreak on 30 March, 2020 (https://issuu.com/upcg/docs/prirucnik-_final).
The reactions in Montenegro and across the region were outstanding. Besides the dissemination to all schools in Montenegro through the Ministry of Education, the Manual was rapidly distributed and shared through the Balkan region via different portals, websites and online groups that gather teachers and those working with children, including those for parents and students.
With the outbreak of COVID-19 in Montenegro, all schools have had to suddenly close for an unknown period of time, while students and their families have had to self-isolate. In just a couple of days, schools had to develop and work on the establishment of the new learning/teaching concept – remote and online concept for every student organized by every teacher. Being unprepared, teachers and students had to adjust to the new roles and at the same time while remote and online learning was being organized, both had to learn this new approach: teachers how to organize it and students how to actively participate in it.
“While there is not a definitive answer to all scenarios that schools may be undertaking during this time, with the Manual, we aimed to provide some general guidelines by combining pedagogical principles and recommendations for remote and online learning and its best practice approaches worldwide. Therefore, we adjusted existing theoretical knowledge to the current circumstances and teachers’/students’ possibilities at the time, while having in mind the Coronavirus/COVID-19 situation and its impact on the well-being of the students’ population” the authors stated.
The Government reacted through a thank you note by Ms Irma Nišić, chief of cabinet of the Ministry of Education, that also stated that the Manual will be published at the Ministry of Education portal for schools.
Many reactions came from colleagues across the region.
“Montenegrin Association of Pedagogues, thank you for detailed guidelines that can be helpful to all of us from the Balkan region”, says Ms Željana Radojičić Lukić, founder of the Teachers Network during a pandemic that gathers more than 27.000 teachers from the Balkan region.
“Congratulations for the Manual being published! Great work! Thank you for contributing to online learning. At the same time, I would like to invite you to cooperate in terms of creating a joint webinar on the topic of online learning and to share experiences”, wrote Ms Minela Kerla, the president of the Association of the Online Educators, Sarajevo, BiH.
The authors adjusted the existing theoretical knowledge to the current circumstances and possibilities for the teachers and students at the time. With its content, the Manual provides guidance for the most likely scenarios facing teachers in their need to support student learning aimed at overcoming the obstacles in planning and organizing remote and online learning. In addition, but no less important, the Manual provides guidance for monitoring and evaluating the work of students in their new virtual classrooms.
The Manual also includes a special part dedicated to establishing cooperation with parents since this approach in circumstances such as this, requires stronger bonds with parents in sharing responsibilities for student learning.
The Montenegrin Association of Pedagogues, as a professional association, was founded in 2016 with the aim to provide active contribution to the improvement of the educational system in Montenegro. Soon after publishing the Manual, their representative has been invited by the Ministry of Education to become one of the members of the Working Group for developing guidelines for monitoring and evaluating the work of students during remote and online learning, and used the Manuals as the basis for developing the rulebook.