To curb the spread of COVID-19, schools are to remain closed till September. / File Photo
The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a cloud of uncertainty over learning institutions. As a cautious measure to the viral virus, schools have been closed since March 15.
As a result, the pandemic has changed the way students are educated. Schools around the country have resorted to online study and thousands of students have opted for home-schooling.
Those changes reflect how the system could transform after the pandemic.
Although it is too early to judge how these reactions to COVID-19 will affect education systems around the world, there are signs suggesting that it could have a lasting impact on the course of learning innovation and digitalisation.
Going by the current undertakings, such changes have certainly come with paramount inventions, as well as a set of challenges, all of which have prompted an educational revolution.
In this article, Education Times captures five likely disciplines that could lead to future transformations of education.
Unlocking technology to deliver education
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in educational institutions across the world being compelled to suddenly harness and utilise the available technological tools, to create content for remote learning for students in all levels of education.
Educators across the world are experiencing new possibilities to do things differently, and with greater flexibility resulting in potential benefits in accessibility to education for students across the world.
These are new modes of instruction that have previously been largely untapped, particularly in the nursery and primary school education, says Cherish Nkurunziza, a nursery school teacher.
A catalyst for new innovations
Education expert Maurice Twahirwa is of the view that the slow pace of change in academic institutions globally is lamentable, with centuries-old, lecture-based approaches to teaching, outmoded classrooms, among others.
However, COVID-19 has become a catalyst for educational institutions worldwide to search for innovative solutions in a relatively short period of time.
For instance, students from Integrated Polytechnic Regional Centre (IPRC) Kigali, could soon release the first locally produced ventilators at affordable prices on the market to respond to COVID-19 pandemic.
Other simpler, yet no less creative solutions were implemented around the globe.
Students at one school in Lebanon began leveraging online learning, even for subjects such as physical education. Students shot and sent over their own videos of athletic training and sports to their teachers as “homework”, pushing students to learn new digital skills.
One student’s parent remarked, “While the sports exercise took a few minutes, my son spent three hours shooting, editing and sending the video in the right format to his teacher.”
Redefining the role of the teacher
The idea of a teacher as the knowledge-holder who imparts wisdom to their pupils is no longer fit for the purpose of 21st-century education, says Robert Tuyishime, a student tutor at the University of Rwanda.
“With students being able to gain access to knowledge, and even learn a technical skill through a few clicks on their phones, tablets and computers, we will need to redefine the role of the educator in the classroom.” With this, he adds that this may mean that the role of educators will need to move towards facilitating young people’s development as contributing members of society.
A boost to public-private educational partnerships
Olivier Minani, IT expert and educator, is of the view that learning consortiums and coalitions could rapidly take shape, with diverse stakeholders — including governments, publishers, education professionals, technology providers, and telecom network operators — coming together to utilise digital platforms as a temporary solution to the crisis.
In emerging countries where education has predominantly been provided by the government, this could become a prevalent and consequential trend to future education.
Minani pointed out the recent partnership of Rwanda Education Board (REB) and telecommunication networks that provide free e-learning platforms which facilitate students to cope with academics while at school.
The platforms, he says, “provide a number of educational assets, including videos, book chapters, assessment tools, and counselling services for free.”
Through examples like these, it is evident that educational innovation is receiving attention beyond the typical government-funded or non-profit-backed social project.
The digital divide could widen
Some schools, according to a source from the Ministry of Education, are finding stop-gap solutions to continue teaching, since the quality of learning is heavily dependent on the level and quality of digital access.
While virtual classes may be the norm in advanced countries, many students in less developed economies are struggling to adapt to the new directive.
“When classes transition online, these children lose out because of the cost of digital devices and data plans. Unless access costs decrease and quality of access increase in all countries, the gap in education quality and thus socioeconomic equality will be further exacerbated.”
In Rwanda, however, where nearly six million people access internet, most students have raised concerns to mobile networks over the poor internet connectivity during the pandemic.