Emergency Responses to the COVID-19 Crisis in Education: A Shift from Chaos to Complexity

Barbi Svetec
Faculty of Organization and Informatics, University of Zagreb

Blaženka Divjak
Faculty of Organization and Informatics, University of Zagreb


This paper presents a pilot research of approaches taken by European Union (EU) Member States (MSs) in the emergency response to the COVID-19 crisis in pre-tertiary education. It includes a multi-case study of four MSs, examining their education systems’ digital readiness and “fitness for change”, as well as decision-making practices. We use the Cynefin framework of decision contexts to explore different paths in shifting from chaos to complexity. The preliminary findings of this research indicate that a factor positively influencing education systems’ response was not exclusively their digital readiness, but also “fitness” in terms of ongoing reforms and preparedness for change. The findings also suggest that MSs generally continued with their usual decision-making practices, with tendencies towards centralisation of crucial decisions, which is in line with the Cynefin framework, arguing for stronger leadership in chaotic contexts.

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