The impact of the COVID 19 on the Macedonian non formal education

In January 2020, the World Health Organization confirmed that a new corona virus was the cause of a respiratory illness in a cluster of people in Wuhan City, China. In March 2020, the World Health Organization Secretary General declared a pandemic of COVID-19.

In February 2020, COVID-19 was confirmed to have reached North Macedonia.

The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to have a significant short-term and mid-term influence on the behaviour of the society, the development of the economy and in that way on the formal Vocational Education and Training and the non-formal education in North Macedonia.

As it started abruptly, there was no sufficient time for a proper adjustment to the new situation. The obligations for compulsory health and safety measures additionally worsens the context of non-formal education and the crises spilled on the surface are in fact the drawbacks that were neglected before. Challenges cannot be overcome by quick fixes and improvisation as in normal times. Because there was a lot of restriction according to the state of emergency for the entire territory of the country, non- formal education was interrupted. The pandemic disrupted organizing education in the all levels. All opportunities for learning skills through hands-on experience (either at the school premises or through practical training) were made impossible due to government restrictions.

The low level or inefficient investments in education in the past, supplemented with weak schooling infrastructure improper alignment of the non-formal education and the labour market needs and insufficient digitalization in the education in general are among the challenges which require innovative measures in this difficult time.

After the initial shock imposed by the COVID-19 outbreak, the relevant institutions and the providers for non-formal education started intensive discussions and as a result the coordination among them improved significantly. The Adult Education Centre started to improve the communication with the providers and started to adjust the processes within the institution to the new situation (electronic documents, online requests for verification etc.). The Employment Service Agency became proactive in informing and offering the services and measures to the unemployed people. They have been sharing the information through e-mails, SMS, calls etc.) or physically, by respecting specific protocols.

The cooperation among the associations and regional Employment Service Agency centres has been enhanced apparently, although happening through digital media. Although the first positive reactions are visible in the non-formal education, the system now has the task to define a strategy aimed at overcoming the challenges in the long run.

Non-formal education is challenged to better align with labour market and society needs. An improved coordination of the non-formal education supporting measures provided by the different ministries will stimulate and steer non-formal offers towards qualifications of high national priority.

Economic chambers and sector associations have to further strengthen their cooperation with Employment Service Agency and providers for non-formal education in order to jointly create non-formal offers with a high employment or further qualification potential. This also includes the reintegration of people that have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 crisis, because this people are the most affected from the COVID-19 crisis.