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The Covid-19 pandemic has forever changed how education works. Globally, decision-makers have had to shut down schools and mull over when to reopen in order to protect learners from getting infected in the process of learning.
Majority of education institutions remain closed for the rest of the year 2020. In Kenya, schools will reopen in January 2020 if all things go according to plan. Education institutions have suffered a financial blow as a result. This is causing them to think about their future. How do education institutions remain profitable during a global pandemic and in its aftermath? How do education institutions ensure the safety of their staff and learners? Who are the big winners in education at the moment? What will a successful education institution look like in future?
Some education institutions have shown resilience despite the global pandemic. They are the institutions that embraced technology from the early days of school closures. Classrooms moved from physical places to Zoom meetings. After some teething problems in the form of interruptions from background noise and Zoom-bombing, these classes have successfully delivered live classroom sessions.
Different and innovative delivery methods have come up and are being implemented with some success. Some of them are shown below:
Once schools were closed, learners were confined to their residential areas which can be in different geographical regions. Differences in accessibility of various media come into play here. Urban areas have access to online media through home and mobile internet packages. Rural areas have access to traditional media such as radio and (to some extent) television. Differences in financial ability also limit some learners to one form of media as opposed to its more expensive counterpart.
Some schools are practicing shifts in school days where only a certain number of learners come to school in order to meet social distancing requirements. Learners get limited access to teachers which is maximized with personal learning materials and assignments shared for off-days. Learners learn to build self-reliance and asking questions for their own personalized learning tracks.
One idea that is coming up answers the question of what to do about national examinations. We can no longer have large numbers of students sitting together in an examinational hall due to the risk of infection. Examinations show how well you understood a subject relative to other learners. Examinations are administered in homogenous secure environments in order to ensure uniformity in the results that come out. On the other hand, certification shows that you are capable of performing certain tasks to the same level as any other person with the same certification. It can be administered in vastly different environments. Certification is more practical inn a socially distanced setting.
Young learners need protection and monitoring by their teachers or third parties. Apart from making sure they attend class, their welfare needs to be continuously monitored to safeguard against abuse.
The disruption occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic will likely be felt long after we find a vaccine against it. Employers will meet candidates who learned remotely and have a different set of credentials. Inequalities in income and geographic distribution will also play a more pronounced role in the candidates you encounter. Hopefully, these inequalities will be reduced by a quick resolution from a widely available vaccine and resumption of learning to some level of normalcy.
In terms of work, this pandemic has shown us what is possible with leaner teams that work remotely. New skills for the new way of work are readily available online. Learning within the organization has been key to the resilience we have seen in organizations embracing technology and automation. Infrastructure for learning and conducting training is not as expensive as it once was because there is no need for physical space.
Education institutions need to go back to their roots and find what made them succeed in the first place. They may have inherited a set of problems that have become more pronounced with the current pandemic. This is an opportunity for them to make things right and align themselves more with today’s current realities in delivering education.
We need more inclusive education that brings together learners regardless of their geographical and financial realities. The opportunity for education institutions is in exploring all options and conveniences afforded by technology and a practical mindset. Do not just focus on online delivery of classes. Invest in TV and radio. Consider certification as opposed to examination. Build your organization’s resilience by implementing practical solutions that will keep learners engaged while keeping them safe.