Monday, 9 November 2020

Universities Can Switch to Online Lectures Within 24 Hours, Says Minister

ZAGREB, November 9, 2020 - Science and Education Minister Radovan Fuchs said on Monday that the epidemiological situation in the education system was relatively good and that universities could switch to online lectures within 24 hours.

The situation at Croatian universities is relatively good today, however, in case of any request to switch to online, I can say with full responsibility that all universities and its components are prepared to go online within 24 hours, Minister Fuchs said.

Sending a larger number of students home could additionally increase the spread of the virus

It is necessary, however, to estimate whether switching to online lectures will bring the desired results, primarily, to reduce the pressure on the health system as sending a larger number of students to their homes because as many as 20,000 students studying in Zagreb come from outside Zagreb, could increase the spread of the virus.

The situation is not dramatic for now but if a well-reasoned decision is made that will indicate that that could be effective, we can recommend it (online teaching) to universities in a very short time, he said.

The minister said that some universities have already introduced hybrid approaches to lectures with professors in lecture rooms while students are attend lectures online.

He admitted that it is complicated to transfer some study programmes to online lectures such as at medical schools, schools of dental medicine, faculties of veterinary medicine and so on.

Fuchs presented some data on the coronavirus incidence among undergraduates and university staff and professors.

For instance, the University of Zagreb has registered 235 positive students, which is 0.3% of the total number of its students, and  there are currently 90 employees diagnosed with this infectious disease, or 1.2%.

The University of Osijek, for example, has 67 students diagnosed with the disease, that is 0.43% of its student population and 14 employees (0.05%).

The University of Pula has five positive employees and has no data on students as they are attending online lessons.

The situation at schools is a little more stable and we can see that the number of children infected with the virus is falling. On 28 October, there were 1,440 pupils infected with coronavirus in the whole of Croatia, while today that number is 1,119, said Fuchs.

Thursday, 29 October 2020

Education Minister: School Closures and Online Classes Are Last Resort

ZAGREB, October 29, 2020 - Science and Education Minister Radovan Fuchs said on Thursday that closure of schools and online classes would be the government's last resort and that he was not considering that measure for now.

He cited the study conducted in 133 countries, according to which school contributed very little to the transmission of the infection.

There are 0.2% children who tested positive for coronavirus in the education system. Yesterday 27 children from kindergartens tested positive in Zagreb and over 70 kindergarten teachers, so kindergartens mostly closed down because of staff, he said.

Fuchs said that they were currently considering new guidelines, especially regarding staff wearing masks and improving transport transmission control, which could reflect better on the number of infections than switching to online classes.

We have a relatively good epidemiological situation and let us not close schools, Fuchs said.

Thursday, 24 September 2020

Croatian and Hungarian Ministers Talk Impact of Pandemic on Education System

ZAGREB, Sept 24, 2020 - Croatian Minister of Science and Education Radovan Fuchs on Thursday met with Hungary's Minister for Human Resources Miklos Kasler to talk about impact of pandemic on education system.

The two ministers discussed the challenges in education as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic, the ministry said in a press release.

Minister Fuchs presented Croatia's experience in planning the new school year and the option of three models to conduct classes based on epidemiological circumstances, the ministry said and added that they also discussed continuing cooperation and defining new cooperation programmes in the field of education and science.

The ministry notes that the two ministers discussed possible joint science projects, particularly as part of European research programmes.

The ministers agreed that all countries are faced with similar challenges as a consequence of the pandemic which require common responses to this crisis, and concluded that it is essential  to continue close cooperation in the coming period.

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Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Minister: For Now, Situation in Schools Is Good

ZAGREB, Sept 16, 2020 - Education Minister  Radovan Fuchs said on Wednesday that the situation in schools, after the start of the new school year last week, was relatively good and that they were dealing well with the challenges that the corona crisis has brought.

For now, the situation is relatively good and of the 27,000 grades only 10 are attending online classes from 2,300 schools, Minister Fuchs told MP Vesna Bedekovic (HDZ) in parliament on Wednesday, during Question Time.

He underscored that everything has been done so that this school and academic year flows as best possible considering the circumstances.

Croatia to hire over 5,000 specialists in healthcare in the next five years

Replying to MP Andreja Maric (SDP), who warned that Croatia had a shortage of health personnel, Health Minister Vili Beros underscored that this week, he had signed a five-year plan for specialist courses.

We will employ 5,092 specialists in the next five years, he said and added that this was not a wish list but an attempt to prepare a realistic reflection of the needs in Croatia's health system.

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Monday, 24 August 2020

School To Start On Sept 7, School-Related Public Health Measures Presented

ZAGREB, Aug 24, 2020 - School starts on September 7, and the main rule is to keep one's distance, not to mix pupils from different classes and to step up hygiene, while face masks will be mandatory only for pupils in higher grades if there is not enough space for them to keep their distance, the Education Ministry said on Monday.

The basic rule is that those who are showing symptoms of a communicable disease, are self-isolating or have contracted COVID-19 do not go to school, and to curb the disease it is necessary to keep one's distance, reduce contact between different classes, and step up personal hygiene and that of shared spaces, said Ivana Pavic Simetin, deputy head of the Croatian Public Health Institute (HZJZ) and coordinator of the task force in charge of elaborating and proposing school-related public health measures for the start of the 2020/2021 school and academic year.

Pupils should come into contact with a few teachers as possible during one day or period.

"It is recommended to have two or three hours of classes, two shifts, to have lessons start at different times, as well as breaks," Pavic Simetin said while presenting epidemiological guidelines for the start of the school year.

It is also suggested that schools provide replacement rooms in case there are too many pupils in a classroom for them to be at a distance of 1.5 meters in primary and 2 meters in secondary schools.

If there are no other possibilities, it is suggested that the school operates in shifts. For instance, half of the classes could attend school one week, and the second half next week.

In the event of a child exhibiting symptoms, he or she is separated from others and parents come to pick up their child, but there is no need to panic, and an epidemiologist should only be contacted if several children start showing symptoms.

If a child tests positive for COVID-19, the entire class or kindergarten group will undergo self-isolation.

Pavic-Simetin underscored that children were not superspreaders and that they rarely infect their family members or teachers.

Lower grades of primary schools to function as "bubbles"

Education and Science Minister Radovan Fuchs reiterated that classes in lower grades of primary school would follow the "bubble" model so pupils will not leave the classroom, they will have controlled access to the toilet, their teacher will be with them all the time and they will not mix with children from other classes. They will not have to wear face masks, nor will their teacher.

Pupils in higher grades of primary schools will only have to wear masks if there is not enough space for them to maintain physical distance.

Asked about optional subjects, such as religion, foreign languages, and IT, he underscored that there would be no mixing pupils from different classes, so if that was not possible, such classes would be held online.

There will be online classes if any of these two scenarios occurs: an entire class or school is undergoing self-isolation, or a class is being split up to provide more space for physical distancing, Fuchs said.

"That should not be a big problem, the least favorable version is to have children stay home," he underscored.

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Monday, 20 July 2020

Radovan Fuchs Accepts Position of Minister of Science and Education

ZAGREB, July 20, 2020 - Former prime ministerial adviser on education Radovan Fuchs confirmed on Monday, after meeting with Prime Minister-designate Andrej Plenkovic, that he had accepted the position of Minister of Science and Education in the new cabinet.

"I have agreed to be the new minister, that's all I can tell you," Fuchs told reporters after the meeting.

Asked what his first moves would be, he said that organising school classes in the autumn were "the absolute priority".

"We want to see if it will be possible for students to return to their classes, observing the epidemiological rules of course. We'll see what happens. That's the first thing that needs to be done," Fuchs said.

Should that be impossible, Fuchs said that classes would be organised online. "We will try to do our best, in cooperation with all the stakeholders, including local government and epidemiologists, to ensure that students can return to their classrooms," Fuchs said.

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