A time of celebration, a time to celebrate our heritage and a time to celebrate with pride, our increasingly diverse population (Central Statistics Office Ireland, 2017); it was announced via almost every media outlet in Ireland that the Taoiseach (Irish equivalent for Prime Minister) was to hold an urgent press conference from Washington that would profoundly change the traditional way of life for the entire population.
A familiar narrative that has become part of the discourse of almost all countries, it was announced that among some of the many measures being introduced to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 Pandemic that people should try as much as viably possible to work from home and that schools, colleges, and childcare facilities were to close (Irish Government, 2020). Furthermore, all teaching and learning would have to be done online or remotely for the foreseeable future (Department of Education – Ireland, 2020).
As the COVID-19 Pandemic continues to take its toll on the lives of so many across the globe(World Health Organisation, 2020), especially the most vulnerable members of our society, more stringent measures to counteract the Pandemic have since been rightly introduced in countries throughout the world. In the case of Ireland, you can only leave your home if you are providing an essential service, shopping for food, collecting medical prescriptions, and can only exercise briefly within 2 kilometres of your house.
For education, all teaching, learning, evaluation, and assessment across the continuum of education must presently be done at your home and with no surprise, CREA comes to fore; terms such as ‘alternative methods of evaluation and assessment’ are no longer considered an option but rather, in the space of a few weeks, are increasingly referred to as the new orthodoxies to enhance performance and learning.
While these measures are supported and replicated in many countries and With Cause for Optimism, many educators and students have readily adapted to this new mode of teaching and learning. However, With Cause for Concern, uncomfortable questions abound. These concerns include but are not limited to the assumption by some architects of policy and practice that students live in a home environment conducive to learning, and educators have the capacity and skillset required to develop alternative methods of evaluation and assessment.
Indeed, Pre COVID-19 and inspired by the work of Professors Stafford Hood, Rodney Hopson, and Henry Frierson among other members of the CREA community; a European Union-funded project entitled Aiding Culturally Responsive Assessment in Schools (ACRAS) that was co-ordinated by CREA Dublin at the Centre for Evaluation Quality and Inspection (EQI) at Dublin City University in Ireland found that only a minority of European schools in Austria, Ireland, and Norway for example, had professional development opportunities that allowed staff to adequately diagnose, support, communicate and assess students with migration backgrounds (Brown et al., 2019, Nayir et al. 2019). With no surprise, analysis of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test scores (OECD, 2000 –2017) also revealed that, in most OECD countries, there had been constant achievement gaps between migrant and non-migrant children in the areas of Reading, Mathematics and Science.
Post COVID-19, with free-falling educational standards, the move towards alternative modes of assessment and the absence of for many children, the safe haven of the school, it would be reasonable to suggest that those most educationally affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic will be children who are economically disadvantaged and/or from culturally diverse backgrounds.
The CREA community knows no borders and inspired by an extraordinary act of humanity when in 1847, the Choctaw Nation supported famine victims in Ireland (Lynch,2018); what is perhaps a most pressing issue to pose to the entire CREA community is as follows:
How can we, as members of the CREA community, continue to support and enhance the life chances of those children who are economically disadvantaged and/or from culturally diverse backgrounds during and after the COVID-19 Pandemic?
Available at assessment.ie and to ensure that CREA is to fore with all modes of evaluation and assessment in Ireland and around the globe, the initial CREA Dublin response over the course of the last three weeks has been for myself and my colleagues Professors Gerry McNamara and Joe O’Hara to remotely support educators, policymakers, and learners with CREA practices. This has culminated into the rapid re-development and subsequent deployment of a self-contained online course and toolkit to enhance CREA practices that is now available to every education institution in Ireland and throughout the world.
A very small step we agree and only time will tell if this initial response has had any effect if at all on enhancing the quality of education for those children who are economically disadvantaged and/or from culturally diverse backgrounds. However, moving forward:
We at CREA Dublin City University are eager to support and most eager to know how collectively, the global CREA community can respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic in order to support those members of society that we are privileged to serve.
Dr Martin Brown: Research Director, EQI - The Centre for Evaluation Quality and Inspection, Dublin City University, Ireland. Further details at selfevaluation.ie
Brown, M., Altrichter, H., Nayir, F., Nortvedt, G., Burns, D., Fellner, M., Gloppen, S.K., Helm, C., McNamara, G., O’Hara, J., Punzenberger, B., Skedsmo, G. and Wiese, E.F. (2019) Classroom Assessment that Recognises Cultural Difference - A European Perspective. Dublin: EQI. Available at: actionresearch.ie
Central Statistics Office Ireland (2017) Census of Population 2016 – Profile 7 Migration and Diversity.
Available at: https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p-cp7md/p7md/p7anii/
Department of Education – Ireland (2020). Guidance on Continuity of Schooling For primary and post-primary schools. Available at:
Irish Government (2020) COVID-19 (Coronavirus).
Available at: https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/c36c85-covid-19-coronavirus/
Lynch, S. (2018, March 18) Choctaw generosity to Famine Ireland saluted by Varadkar. The Irish Times. Available at: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/choctaw-generosity-to-famine-ireland-saluted-by-varadkar-1.3424542
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