How pandemic is giving a peek of possible future education

The coronavirus pandemic is giving us a glimpse of how education could evolve. With schools closed, it has presented us with the unexpected social experiment on homeschooling.

Experts believe the innovations teachers use during the outbreak may lead to lasting change, with technology playing a bigger role in schools in the future.

 

Around the world, schools are using existing platforms from the likes of Microsoft and Google as well as conferencing apps like Zoom to deliver lessons for their pupils. Other media such as radio and TV are also being used.

 

The new demands from teachers is not just to replicate their lessons in another medium, but to find entirely new responses to what the children learn, how they learn, where they learn and when they learn.

 

With these demands, it is also being emphasized that advances in e-learning must not leave the educationally disadvantaged behind.

The Covid-19 health crisis has exacerbated and highlighted existing inequalities around the world, even among the richest countries.

These include inequality in the financial resources available to schools in adapting quickly to a new model of teaching and learning. The rich private schools seem to be doing better reaching their pupils with e-learning at home than public schools.

There is also inequality in the support available to pupils in their home. Many households can’t afford gadgets or internet data. Financial resources during the economic crisis are stretched even for some in the middle class.

Governments have been trying best they could to reduce these inequalities. In Rwanda, as in other African countries, school lessons are being delivered through radio and TV to reach the most pupils, particularly through radio which has the widest reach.

There have been other issues. Some parents are limited – either because of illiteracy or aptitude – in how much they can assist their children with the homeschooling.

Others have been resentful at being forced to be teachers and parents at the same time, while others have simply been unable.

For those still working full-time, for example, it must seem like an impossible demand. Even for those whose work has been moved online, or have had their work reduced or have been laid off, the idea of becoming their children’s teachers can be overwhelming.

For many parents, having the children at home throughout particularly in these circumstances is trying enough. Asking them to take over their children’s education can be too much.

In any case, pedagogy, the more technical term for education, is a profession and science of teaching.

However, some parents have been happy for the opportunity to see how their children learn and offer a hand. The keen among them have been drawing some insights, noting how children are different.

I read somewhere how some parents seemed surprised that the length of a lesson can depend on a child; that the lesson can last as long as a pupil wants. Some get tired after 15 minutes, while others prefer to study for two hours without a break. Some will prefer to study at 10 p.m., or even at midnight.

They observed this as one of the reasons why educational gaps exist, as school treats all pupils as if they are the same, while they are all different.

It has also been observed that before the coronavirus, teachers spent much effort and recourse to make sure students do not use textbooks and do not copy answers from one another during an exam.

If the exams were to be held from home, the approach would have to change. Instead of testing the students’ memory, the teachers will test their ability to think and to find the information they need.

It seems to me like this would reinforce the competence-based curriculum adopted by countries like Rwanda and Kenya which have moved from knowledge and skills acquisition to knowledge creation and application.

For now, it's too early to say that brick-and-mortar schools will be replaced by e-learning anytime soon.

What is certain is that in some parts of the world where attending conventional school is not mandatory, it will be down to parents to keep their child's education going as best they can. But digital technologies are increasingly being used to deliver lessons to children at home.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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