NOT since The World War II have so many countries around the world witnessed educational institutions go into a lock down at the same time and for the same reason like we have experienced in the past few months. Never could one have imagined that a disruption so intense and fierce would hit the Education sector! None could have visualised a world faced with such a cataclysmic change triggered by a global pandemic; bringing new shifts in educational approaches and giving us a glimpse into how education could change for the better or worse going into the future. In the past few weeks, we have gone from classroom to Zoom and from association to isolation! A lot has been changed and perhaps, never to return to all that we knew about teaching and learning previously. Most governments across the world have temporarily closed educational institutions in an attempt to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Wikipedia.org, approximately 1.725 billion learners are currently affected. This makes for a great percentage of students globally.
Suffice it to say that school calendars have been drastically altered, examination schedules being cancelled or postponed indefinitely, streams of income being grossly affected for several educational institutions, online learning becoming the trend of the day, technological tools gaining more prominence, and indeed, the world as we have always known it has critically evolved in many ways. The current realities have triggered a critical reflection on what the future holds for teachers and learners. While we know that the impact of this virus will be far reaching, what might it mean in the long run for education? A first glimpse of what the future of Education holds Post Covid is the rise in the use of technological tools and a deeper embrace of digital literacy in order to facilitate qualitative learning experiences. Technology has stepped into the breach and will continue to play a critical role. The concept of blended learning, whereby digital tools are maximisedas complements to traditional learning systems, is most likely to gain more relevance Post-Covid. Most educational institutions have come to an awareness of the role of building and maintaining online learning systems as a key for ensuring institutional resilience and academic continuity amidst crisis situations. They are most likely to continue on this path for a long time to come.
While many educational systems have resisted changing the typical 150 year old classroom structure, necessity has facilitated a new compelling need to do what declining student achievement could not. Covid 19 has brought home the reality that educational technology which delivers great content and engages students and teachers has never been more important. Educators across the globe are being exposed to new possibilities through the use of diverse synchronous and asynchronous digital tools to create content for remote learning. New modes of instruction that have been previously untapped are being harnessed. Amidst this technological reality, it is also imperative to note that technology alone will not be the enabler post-Covid. Considering the vast cases of remote locations where various factors threaten the existence of technological facilities, it is safe to say that change is indeed here but those in pivotal positions will have to ensure that these positive changes percolate to all. The Matthew Effect within the education sector will have to be anticipated and mitigated. The Matthew Effect implies that those who are most able to afford technological tools and all that digital education entails are those who will actually benefit the most.
Another glimpse of what the future of Education holds is a redefinition of the role of the educator. The traditional belief of the teacher as the almighty custodian of knowledge who imparts wisdom into students is no longer valid and will not thrive going into the future. With just some clicks and flicks, many students can now access knowledge by themselves online. There must now be a realisation of the educator as a facilitator and an integrator. As a facilitator, guiding and motivating students as they ascend the path of discovery for themselves and form new thoughts and mindsets. As an integrator, bridging the gap between academic knowledge and practical life for the students. Skills-based learning will also be seen to gain prominence over knowledge based learning post-Covid. The pandemic has revealed the need for students and educators to possess certain life skills critical for survival in a crisis. It will therefore be important for these skills to be embedded in educational curriculums across all levels. These skills have included Creativity and Critical Thinking, Emotional Intelligence, Entrepreneurship, Informed decision making, Empathy and Collaboration. Looking into the future, many employers will be on the lookout for individuals who will possess these skills in great measures. As such, the need to ensure students are well groomed in these domains.
Pre-Covid, the roles of teachers have been undervalued and lightly esteemed by many. Having maintained interactions with several parents of my students, it is clear that more parents are further sensitised towards the critical roles that teachers play in and out of the classroom and how valuable teachers really are. Many parents have had to combine their regular job schedules with also serving as intermediary teachers for their children. Most parents have found this an arduous task and it has further reinforced the notion that teaching is a weighty task requiring critical expertise to perform. Parental involvement in students’ academics will also be greatly improved. This is because many parents who previously have not dedicated adequate time to their children’s academics are now more aware of their role. Therefore, Post Covid, Parents and teachers are aware of their complementary roles and common purpose: to help the child(ren) learn and be successful. This indeed is the basis for a powerful and sustainable collaboration.
Another glimpse into the future of Education Post Covid reveals a clash of objectives for many educational institutions. This might stem from uncertainty or being torn between the total adoption of methods of learning adopted during the pandemic or continuing with regular strategies used Pre-Covid.
There is also a likelihood of a rise of low-cost private schools as some parents might not be able to afford the high tution costs of the high-end schools their children attended Pre-Covid. Many have lost streams of income while others have experienced a drastic reduction in their income rates.
It should also be noted that the pandemic situation has revealed the truth about teachers who really have a passion for the profession and those who are half-baked and demotivated towards the job.
Some teachers might not be returning back to the classrooms Post Covid! This is because some teachers have taken up job roles and maintained streams of income during the pandemic that they would sustain Post Covid. School Management bodies must be sensitive to this and plan accordingly.
In light of these predicted situations and impacts Post Covid, it is pertinent to note that no one can fully guarantee all that the future holds for the Education sector. We can however specifically assert that we will not be arriving at the same point we were, Pre Covid.
- Ogunsanya writes in from Lagos, Nigeria.
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