New SSE Riga/BICEPS occasional paper by Zane Varpina (SSE Riga, BICEPS), Kata Fredheim (SSE Riga, BICEPS) and Marija Krumina (BICEPS).
This research was supported by Latvian Council of Science, Funding number: lzp-2018/1-0486, acronym: FLPP-2018-1.
Over the period 2020-21 Latvian schools experienced one of the longest closure periods in Europe. Hence Covid-19 significantly impacted high school pupils, especially those graduating in 2021, i.e. half of the secondary school programme they acquired was delivered remotely. Their learning and social experiences are distinct from that of previous cohorts. The findings are directly relevant for higher education institutions to further adapt to the background and needs of this student cohort.
To examine this cohort’s experience, this chapter empirically examines adolescents at the point of their graduation from high school to learn what impact the pandemic has had on their quality education and plans. The findings provide insight into how they evaluate the remote studies and their knowledge, how they perceive their mental state, and what disruption to plans it has caused. We learn that most students found remote studies more difficult than onsite learning and associate it with lack of knowledge behind the grades earned. They have experienced lack of motivation and miss real life communication with their friends, even though they occasionally admit not breaking lockdown rules and meeting peers. The most common concern among graduates is lost opportunities they would otherwise have, however, we also notice impressive resilience when they imply that the pandemic has opened new opportunities that otherwise would not be possible, along with self-development and character growth. Overall, the stress level for adolescents was moderate to high. Covid-19 has caused disruptions to plans, some more like opportunities others like limitations.
The insights may provide understanding to how these students require a very different approach from educators and staff alike. Higher education institutions have the opportunity to adapt and innovate, to custom the content of studies and communication form to the diverse incoming generations.
Key words: Secondary school graduates, adolescents, study plans, Covid-19, pandemic, school-life transition