April 15, 2021

The Catalyst Effect Of The Pandemic On Education: Confronting The New Reality In 2021

Ouriginal is a strong supporter of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) defined by the United Nations in 2017. As a provider of EdTech solutions, we regard it as our responsibility to proactively support the SDG’s ‘Goal 4’ on a daily base. This goal is defined as:

“Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

Through our software solution, educators worldwide are not only able to evaluate the learning progress of students, but can also raise awareness about the importance of learning, acquiring knowledge, and developing skills that will open up opportunities for students to fully thrive in life.

Unfortunately, this mission has been severely put to test over the last year by the Covid-19 virus.

The New Reality: Fairness and Equality At Stake More Than Ever

Reading the UN’s annual report on the state of reaching the SDGs in 2030, the image being drawn is a rather gloomy one. The situation in education shows alarming trends:

  • School closures kept 90% of all students out of school, reversing years of progress.
  • Inequalities in education have been exacerbated by Covid-19, resulting in students from disadvantaged backgrounds from not being able to complete their education.
  • Remote learning has not been available to all students especially in the developing nations, keeping 500 million students from receiving any education.

    [Source: The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2020]

The question is: How do we tackle these developments? What can we really do in this ‘new reality’ that education is confronted with? It’s not easy to find answers to these questions, but it’s important to start reflecting on them in order to improve the above-mentioned circumstances.

A Focus On Two Crucial Factors Might Help Students Find Their Voice In A Digitized World

Education needs a basic medium that can teach (such as an educator), a medium that contains and ‘delivers’ knowledge (such as books and other materials), and a medium where knowledge can be ‘exercised’ (such as a pen and paper for assignments). This has been the case for ‘analogue’ millenniums, and it is still applicable in today’s digitized world.

Teaching and learning need the described conditions, but it will never be successful, if what we call the ‘human factor’ is missing: Only when educators understand their students’ skills and capabilities, and are willing to nurture their potential, will students really get a chance in life. This is the first crucial factor.

In times that pose many uncertainties onto students and that requires them to rapidly adapt to change, it is important that students have guidance and a mentor to navigate through these difficult times. One of these challenges has often been overlooked or even been actively neglected: digital literacy. During the phase of intense remote learning and teaching, the shortcomings in this area became very evident – which is why the European Commission even defined a ‘Digital Education Action Plan 2021 – 2027’.

The reasons for putting more emphasis on digital literacy are quite obvious: We often assume that students being born as ‘digital natives’ are naturally experts when it comes to navigating, learning and ‘living’ in digital environments. This is a common misconception, as the ability to use a digital tool does not automatically include a deeper understanding of the implications the usage of that tool might bring.

Students need to be taken by the hand and taught to use technology just as they’re taught to write with a pen and paper. And on a meta level, in a digitized world, the need for education on topics such as right and wrong, integrity, copyright and privacy, is just as pressing and important as they were before.

The Way Into An Uncertain Future: Putting Students Back Into The Focus Of Education

Summarizing what we’ve looked at, vulnerability of students has increased tremendously in the current digitized world. Gaps in digital literacy have become extremely obvious, and seclusion and isolation are factors that are hindering the  development of students. This calls for putting the human factor back into the equation as a key performance indicator in education.

The good news is that the pandemic has highlighted and brought to the forefront some of our society’s apparent challenges, and we can’t ignore them anymore. Being fully aware of them now, we can begin to look for ways in which to overcome them.

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