We are only just beginning to see how the pandemic has triggered irreversible disruption in so many sectors.
The effects of education establishments being closed has had far reaching effects, The World Bank estimates that as many as 1.7 billion students were out of school this year, which is 90% of all students globally. And 600 million have yet to return. The World Bank also estimates that around 10 million students may never return as a result of their parents being out of work and the financial implications that this causes.
Pre-pandemic, most schools, colleges and universities didn’t have the infrastructure to implement remote learning, the staff weren’t trained, the organisation lacked enough devices and the systems weren’t in place. They were ill prepared to switch to education via the internet. To be able to continue to offer children a semblance of normality and to keep students on track, all learning institutions have had to embrace technology in order to maintain classes and in some cases, this has been an uphill struggle.
But in this process, we have seen perceptions change and a tangible shift in mindset of both student and parents. By undertaking remote learning, many are now starting to question why we held on to such an archaic system for so long. And perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that parent and student expectations are shifting.
Our future generations will be intrinsically tied to technology and there’s no getting away from this fact. With smart houses, cities and the Internet of Things (IoT) on the rise, if we don’t align education with this level of technological know-how, children from less tech-savvy families will be left to fall through the gaps.
Moving with the times
Our education system needs to be progressive and move with the times, and the pandemic brought this into high definition. Our children have missed out so much during the pandemic; on a full education, engaging with their peers and the daily routine of visiting a location for lessons. But there are also skills that they have gained, that they may not have done, if we hadn’t been in this situation. Children are so quick to pick up new skills and the computer skills and use of technology they have been immersed in will surely be an advantage in the future.
Growing these skills and building on what we have learnt from the pandemic actually opens doors, with forward thinking educational institutes initiating home learning practices for children off sick, in hospital or even those who are travelling with parents for work, so no child, no matter their circumstances, will miss out.
Imagine the delight and interest from children in education as we begin to see virtual campuses being built to engage students and create a community feel online, where tasks, progress, coursework and achievements can be tracked. The idea of being able to virtually track progress, is similar to a gaming model and will help engage students further.
With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and automated technology we will begin to see traditional, manual or customer service-based roles diminish and there will be less need for a large workforce when computers and machines can do the role equally well. There is a clear need to be equipping our students now to work in this automated world and encouraging them to be progressive lifelong learners ready to acquire the new skills needed for any challenge they face.
As we have socially distanced and stayed at home for the last year, we have also found a new freedom and a release from the relentless rushing from one place to another. We have stopped, taken stock and actually seen how a more flexible, remote education could be advantageous post-pandemic.
The impacts of this shifting perception can be seen across the globe; US kindergarten enrolments are down, there has been a drop in primary and secondary enrolments, and a Clearinghouse report showed the number of high school graduates going on to college dropping by an incredible 22%. That means between one in five and one in eight students are simply not enrolling back in the system.
In the UK, faith in the education system was shaken by the UK exams fiasco last summer, in which the government made a spectacular U-turn on the botched results of grades-by-algorithm, abandoning the system at the 11th hour in place of teacher-assessed grades.
The result is that an entirely new breed of education institutions have emerged, which have fully embraced cloud technology to deliver a more effective, personalised education at a fraction of the cost of many traditional institutions. It’s the organisations who choose to reinvent themselves, that will be the leaders in a new education revolution.
Schools are now competing with global online high schools, with Stanford University’s Online High School leading the way. More progressive universities, including Harvard and Cambridge are now providing online education at lower cost, with a global reach.
The future our younger generations are facing is filled with setbacks – financial downturn, recession and a lack of jobs have heightened the need for this educational revolution. With parents and students demanding change, we are entering a new age of education; an age where the virtual and the physical will collide and a brave new generation of well-equipped students will help pick up the pieces of economic and social fallout created by the pandemic.
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