Covid-19 effect on education – Teachers, lecturers, learners, and parents collectively hold their breath, waiting for further instruction from education authorities on the immediate future of schools, colleges, universities and training centres. For now, though, it falls to these parents or guardians, students and educational institutions to collaborate on carrying out learning outside of the classroom
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a drastic effect on education, worldwide. By 13th April 2020, about 1.725 billion learners from all levels of development – from kindergarten to tertiary education – have been affected, with 192 countries implementing total, nationwide school closures, and 5 countries implementing local closures. According to UNESCO, 91.4% of the world’s enrolled learners are under education lockdown. Over 63 million educators are no longer able to teach within their classrooms.
Besides the obvious impact on student syllabi, a number of other consequences and challenges of school closures become apparent during the lockdown, such as:
- Limited access to digital learning or open education apps in marginalized communities.
- Lack of sufficient childcare at homes.
- Compromised nutrition where schools provide a primary meal to children in attendance.
- Impact on exams and assessments, and potentially 2020 graduations.
- Economic losses to families where breadwinners are unable to work, as they are caring for children.
- Poor quality of home education, where parents or guardians lack the education to sufficiently contribute to the distance learning curriculum.
- The burden of care and education is especially felt by families of special needs learners, who rely on the expertise of specialist educators.
Has this ever happened before?
There have been outbreaks of infectious diseases in the past that have triggered varying degrees of lockdowns and school closures. For example:
1918 – Spanish flu: many regions in the USA implemented successful school closures and a ban on public gatherings, for around 4 weeks.
1957 – Asian Flu: School closures reportedly reduced the morbidity and mortality of the virus by 90%.
2004-2008 – Influenza: For four years, the state of Arizona practised scheduled two-week winter school closures during flu seasons, among all children aged 5 -17 years.
2009 – Swine flu: Schools were closed in Oita City, Japan, and other countries, to slow the spread of the N1H1 virus, and epidemiologists in the UK endorsed this action, urging other affected communities to follow suit.
2014 – Ebola: Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone – the hotspots of infection – closed their schools for over six months, affecting the education of 5 million schoolchildren.
While these occurrences are isolated and seem vastly incomparable with the worldwide shut down of educational institutions being seen today, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these modest, historic examples offer us a glimpse into both the necessity and possibilities of school closures in times of pandemic crises.
Learning at home: Time for “EdTech” to shine
EdTech = Education Technology
On one hand, it’s worth noting that homeschooling programs and distance learning modules have been in place for decades. While intimidating to parents, learners and teachers alike, the concept of learning at home is not new.
On the upside, technology in the virtual sharing and collaboration space has absolutely boomed in the last 10-15 years, with the world moving toward remote working, working while travelling, and the increase of online education, as well as online short courses. Contrary to previous infectious disease school closures, we now have a selection of tools to work with.
Here in South Africa, we’ve seen school teachers, university lecturers and other training centre facilitators dedicate themselves to learning an entirely new way of teaching and training, in just a matter of weeks. Classrooms and lecture halls have had to be reinvented on virtual platforms, and entire curriculums have had to be entrusted to learners and often, parents too.
In an age where distance education has become – and keeps becoming – more and more feasible, the future of teaching could take on an entirely new shape and form.
Teacher-Parent / Teacher-Student dynamics
In the case of distance education or homeschooling, a large portion of the responsibility for learning falls to the parents of children, and to the students themselves. While traditional classrooms allow teachers and lecturers a measure of control, learners accessing study material at home do so without the micro-management of a teaching authority. With the closure of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, the education industry as a whole has had a taste of this new dynamic, and has had to learn and adjust quickly:
- Parents are now more involved than ever, and it’s speculated that the equal sharing of responsibility between teachers and guardians could be a healthy family dynamic, where it’s possible to sustain. It’s unfortunately not sustainable where both parents or guardians have to work.
- In the case of older scholars, varsity students or part-time learners, having to manage their own work and studies also encourages them to learn the skills of scheduling, time management and overall diligence.
Teacher training and upskilling
As new as this is for learners and parents, the COVID-19 effect on education has also been felt by teachers, lecturers and trainers across the country, and the world. Teachers with years of classroom experience have had to readjust their teaching techniques, tools and means, to make their syllabus available to students via:
- YouTube video
- WhatsApp groups
- Shared platforms, such as Google Classroom
- Ed Tech collaboration apps, such as ADAM app
The innovation and evolution of EdTech and distance learning
EdTech systems are being put to the test, as is the local education field’s ability to adapt to a distance learning environment. Where distance learning is the norm for many homeschooling families and online course facilitators, the impact of COVID-19 on traditional education will:
- Ramp up technology innovations in the EdTech and team collaboration sectors
- Catalyze a new public perception of the trials and victories of learning at home.
COVID-19 effect on education – permanent or temporary
At this stage, few people can say with certainty that schools will return to normal, or that distance learning in all educational sectors will become a permanent reality. Compelling speculation suggests that COVID-19 enforced distance learning will be in place for some time to come.
Many are encouraged to accept and adapt to the semi-permanence of a school lockdown, to set themselves up by learning how to better facilitate online learning, how to assess learners from afar, and how to create a sense of student community, without the classroom. This is the art of distance learning – one that we are more than familiar with at Assessment College. If you want to learn more being a better teacher in these times, and beyond these times, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive expert advice on how we can assist you to keep developing towards the current and future paradigms of learning.
We also admire UNESCO’s approach to the closure of schools, and their practical advice to help education providers, parents and students adapt to learning at home.
Remember, you can talk to us about your future in teaching, training and skills development anytime.