How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the education sector?
Since the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, the way in which students are educated has changed. Globally, countries have had to make quick decisions to deal with the pandemic as it develops. The various changes have given us some insight into the future of education in the long term. In this Pacific Prime China article, we’ll take a look at how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the education sector.
Impact of COVID-19 on the education sector
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, many students have been unable to attend schools and universities. According to the OECD, more than 72% of the global student population is affected by nationwide temporary closures of educational institutions. Localized closures in other countries are also affecting millions of additional learners. On a global scale, over 1 billion learners have been affected by the pandemic.
The attempt to control the risk of spread has resulted in millions of students learning through temporary “home-schooling” methods instead. This is especially true for countries that have been most affected by the coronavirus, such as China, South Korea, and Italy. Even though these changes have come with some difficulties, they have also resulted in some novel examples of educational innovation.
While we have yet to see how the pandemic will impact education systems on a global scale, there are indications that it could have a lasting effect on the direction of educational innovation and digitization. The following trends provide some insight into future changes:
Changes in education could result in interesting innovations
Changes in education tend to occur at a slow pace, which is evident in outdated teaching methods and old-fashioned classrooms. COVID-19 has managed to motivate educational institutes around the world to find innovative solutions in a comparatively short amount of time.
In February 2020, China launched a national remote learning platform and live television broadcasts to provide students with study resources. Students in Hong Kong also started learning at home in the same month by using interactive apps. Other examples of innovative solutions include a school in Nigeria, where online learning tools and video instructions were augmented to help with anticipated school closures. Likewise, students in a Lebanese school started using online education for subjects including physical education.
As 5G technology is becoming increasingly widespread in various countries, including China, Japan, and the US, learners and solution providers alike will start to embrace the concept of “learning anywhere, anytime”. This will result in changes in digital education in a variety of formats. For instance, new learning modalities will complement traditional classroom learning, such as live broadcasts and virtual reality (VR) experiences. Integrating learning into a daily routine could also result in it becoming more of a lifestyle as well.
Public-private partnerships in education could become more significant
Since the beginning of the crisis, we have seen partnerships form in an attempt to use digital platforms as a short-term solution. The Ministry of Education in China, for example, introduced the previously-mentioned online learning and broadcasting platform.
Additionally, the readtogether.hk forum based in Hong Kong is a consortium of more than 60 educational and entertainment industry professionals, organizations, media, and publishers, offering over 900 educational assets. These assets include books, videos, assessment tools, counseling services, and more for free. The consortium intends to continue to use and maintain the platform following the containment of the coronavirus as well.
These are just some examples of how educational innovation is gaining attention beyond projects that are typically government-funded or backed by non-profit organizations. The private sector has already shown great interest in education innovation and solutions in the past decade, with investments to match, ranging from Alibaba and Ping An in China to Google and Microsoft in the US. While most initiatives have been rather limited in scope, and somewhat isolated, the pandemic could result in coalitions forming on a larger-scale and across different industries, with education as a common goal.
The digital divide could become greater
Many schools in affected areas are improvising solutions to continue teaching. However, the quality of learning largely depends on the quality and level of digital access. First and foremost, just around 60% of the world’s population is online. While students in China or Hong Kong may enjoy virtual classrooms on their tablets, those in less developed economies may need to get their assignments via email instead.
What’s more, students from families that are not as affluent or digitally savvy could be left behind. If classes become digital, these children may not be able to access them due to the cost of data plans and digital devices. The differences in educational quality, and therefore socioeconomic equality, will worsen unless the quality of access increases and access costs decreases across the globe. The digital divide could become even wider if access to education depends on access to the latest technologies.
How the coronavirus pandemic is reshaping education
The fast spread of the COVID-19 virus has shown us how important it is to build resilience when it comes to facing threats, ranging from pandemic outbreaks to climate issues. The pandemic also reminds us of the various skills students need in this ever-changing world, such as creative thinking, decision making, and, perhaps most importantly, the ability to adapt to changes. To make sure those skills are a priority for students, resilience also needs to be incorporated into our educational systems.
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