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Opportunities and Challenges in Education due to COVID-19

by Public Health Update

Opportunities and Challenges in Education due to COVID-19

Yeshoda KC

Coronavirus is continuing its spread across the world, with nearly four million confirmed cases and 298,202 deaths in 212 territories. The pandemic has affected educational systems worldwide, leading to the near-total closures of schools, universities and colleges. We are living amidst what is potentially one of the greatest threats in our lifetime to global education, a gigantic educational crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic have shed a light on numerous issues affecting access to education, as well as broader socio economic issues. More than 370 million children and youth are not attending school because of temporary or indefinite country wide school closures mandated by governments in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Starting the school year late or interrupting it completely disrupts the lives of many children, their parents, and teachers. As a result, there is distinctive rise of e-learning (online learning), whereby teaching is undertaken remotely and on digital
platforms. With this sudden shift away from the classroom in many parts of the globe, some are wondering whether the adoption of online learning will continue to persist post-pandemic, and how such a shift would impact the worldwide education market. But only developed countries are better prepared to move to online learning strategies, with a lot of effort and challenges for teachers and parents. In middle-income and poorer countries, the situation is very mixed and if we do not act appropriately, the vast inequality of opportunities may arise between developed and low income nations. Many children do not have a desk, books, internet connectivity, a laptop at home, or supportive parents in low income and poorer
nations.

Opportunities

Some countries will be able to increase their teachers’ digital skills. Radio and TV stations will recognize their key role in supporting national education goals and hopefully, improve the quality of their programming understanding their immense social responsibility. Parents will be more involved in their children’s education process, and ministries of education will have a much clearer understanding of the gaps and challenges (in connectivity, hardware, integration of digital tools in the curriculum, teacher’s readiness) that exist in using technology effectively and act upon that. All of this can strengthen the future education system in a country.

  • We know that the more engaging learning styles are ones that are more interactive, and that face-to-face learning is better than 100 percent online learning. We also know blended learning can draw on the best of both worlds and create a better learning experience than one hundred percent face-to-face learning. Thus, blended learning approaches will be tried, tested and increasingly used.
  • Quality teaching and learning materials will be better curated and more widely used as educators are looking to other educators as well as trusted sources to help curate high-quality online learning tools.
  • Teachers collaboration will grow and help improve learning.
  • This crisis will help us come together across boundaries. I think its an opportunity for the education sector to unite, forge connections across countries and continents, and truly share what works in a global way.

Challenges

As the global coronavirus pandemic opens up an entirely new set of challenges for the education system, we’re seeing just how important it is to build a more adaptable and inclusive approach to learning.  Maintaining the engagement of children, particularly young secondary school students is critical. Dropout rates are still very high in many countries, and a long period of disengagement can result in a further increase. Going to school is not only about learning math and science, but also about social relationships and peer-to-peer interactions. It is about learning to be a citizen and developing social skills. That is why it is important to stay connected with the school by any means necessary. For all students, this is also a time to develop socio-emotional skills and learn more about how to contribute to society as a citizen. The role of parents and family, which has always been extremely important, is critical in that task. So, a lot of the help that ministries of education provide, working through mass media, should also go to parents. Radio, TV, SMS messages can all be used to provide tips and advice to them on how to better support their children.

The mission of all education systems is the same. It is to overcome the learning crisis we were already living and respond to the pandemic we are all facing. The challenge today is to reduce as much as possible the negative impact this pandemic will have on learning and schooling and build on this experience to get back on a path of faster improvement in learning. As education systems cope with this crisis, they must also be thinking of how they can recover stronger, with a renewed sense of responsibility of all actors and with a better understanding and sense of urgency of the need to close the gap in opportunities and assuring that all children have the same chances for a quality education.


Yeshoda KC, 7th semester BPH student, School of Health and Allied Sciences Email: yeshodakc37@gmail.com


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