Post Covid-19 Questions On Physical Presences In International Educational System.
UGSC has observed that “Most governments around the world have temporarily closed educational institutions in an attempt to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. These nationwide closures are impacting over 60% of the world’s student population. Several other countries have implemented localized closures impacting millions of additional learners.” Overall, close to 200 countries closed their institutions in the spring, thereby interrupting the education of more than 1.5 billion scholars. We therefore need to reflect deeply on our education systems in light of this unprecedented crisis.
The pandemic has starkly highlighted the fragility of our education systems, even those considered relatively stable. It is therefore crucial that the innovation and creativity stimulated by this crisis be leveraged to make education systems more just, inclusive and resilient. This article is therefore intended to give educational system stakeholders a crisis-inspired glimpse into potential opportunities for improvement in the areas of difering methods, students, teachers and educational settings physical to virtual in-house.
Prioritizing opportunities for authentic learning
The COVID-19 crisis has raised salient questions about the necessity, importance and usefulness of certain curriculum content. It has highlighted the relevance of certain trends, particularly the authenticity of learning situations. Indeed, apart from academics, educational programs and student assessment, the paramount need that has emerged is to preserve students’ motivation, engagement and interest as well as their connection with institutions, particularly when institutions are closed for long periods of time. This requires varied, flexible and authentic learning activities. In this regard, the authentic learning experiences resulting from the COVID-19 lockdown could be used to contextualize student realities during the pandemic. This represents an opportunity to rethink curricular content and approaches.
Maximizing the use of learning outside the classroom.
While the extended closures has definitely been a huge disruption in the academic year, it has also shown that learning can continue through distance education, especially by digital means, without students’ physical presence in institutions, even though this entails some challenges. These challenges can affect various aspects of education, including the student-teacher relationship that is so crucial for student success. Even the best technologies cannot completely eliminate this distance between teacher and student. In-class education therefore remains necessary, but this must be placed in perspective and adapted to the current situation.
Furthermore, in preparing for the return of students to institutions, potential difficulties in meeting physical distancing requirements in the classroom, particularly given student numbers and classroom sizes, should be taken into account. Whereas many institutions have reduced class sizes or spaced out student desks, others have addressed these difficulties by organizing outside-the-classroom educational settings, either on grounds or other outdoor settings. Even in technicial education, outdoor classes are being considered as an attractive solution to not only deal with the pandemic but also as a permanent strategy.
Indeed, the risk of virus transmission outdoors is considered low, and open spaces facilitate compliance with physical distancing. Outside-the-classroom education is therefore an interesting possibility for facilitating space management and maximizing face-to-face educational activities, while at the same time keeping virus transmission risk to a minimum. Needless to say, indoor classes cannot be completely replaced by their outdoor counterparts but the pandemic has opened up an avenue for exploration, even in the longer term.
The prolonged closure of institutions due to the COVID-19 crisis has transformed stakeholders’ relationships to both institutions and learning content. Although some students continued their education, many were deprived of adequate opportunities to do so and often lacked essential services and tools such as technological equipment or learning support services. It therefore became necessary to establish specific priorities and emphasize some subjects more than others in institutions curricula.
In the absence of both clear operational guidelines and a contingency plan concerning curriculum priorities, education system actors came up with a variety of suggested approaches to maintain educational continuity. Some curricular priorities were proposed concerning the academic skills and knowledge that students, depending on their age and grade-level, needed to maintain in subjects. This suggests that clear guidelines need to be established to prepare institutions for other potential emergencies involving prolonged closures.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted both challenges and opportunities in education. Prioritizing opportunities for authentic education through the curriculum, learning priorities and the learning environments proposed by education experts reveals a future direction for education that could be further explored after students return to institutions. In terms of institutions environments, outdoor education is proving to be a potentially viable avenue to facilitate the management of space and physical distancing, in addition to offering promising learning settings. Lastly, prolonged institutions closures have highlighted training needs for both students and teachers. While students now need to learn how to work more independently, teachers need to receive more training in the effective use of technological tools required for quality teaching.