The pandemic that went around the globe this year, has impacted not just businesses, livelihoods and social lives, but also children and education. With a global calamity underway, children found themselves bereft of the bedrock of their lives, schools.
According to UNESCO, 60% of the world’s student population has been affected and COVID-19 has forced millions of learners across the world to step out of schools and universities. Across the world, learning centres have been trying to bounce back to offer children education through innovative approaches. Online learning, home schooling, private tutors, and radio programmes are some of the methods that have been adopted during the pandemic. Education Cannot Wait, the global fund for education in emergencies, is offering technical guidance, support and expertise to help affected communities offer education to millions of children whose right to education was impacted by the pandemic.
Despite the unprecedented circumstances, educators have proven to be extraordinarily resourceful in keeping learning continued. Schools on-boarded the Google Classroom bandwagon while teachers designed online teaching methods overnight. Many parents turned to private tutoring services like Tutor Doctor, who have been offering one-on-one online support to help students cope with school assignments and curriculum. Online teaching platforms like Bramble made their technology freely available to tutors, teachers and agencies to enable educators to connect with students.
Now, as various countries see a decline in the number of cases, there is an attempt to return to classroom learning, while ensuring health and safety of all. Schools and universities are using the summer to plan their reopening strategy for the new academic year, even while people wait with bated breath to see if there will be a second wave of the pandemic. Many schools are exploring the option of a hybrid model, alternating online and classroom learning, so that they are prepared to adapt depending on external circumstances.
UNICEF recommends precautions like staggered start time for different students at school, staggering mealtimes, having some classes outdoors and holding school in shifts. While most schools are yet to open, universities have started taking the first steps into a post-pandemic world, adopting a number of COVID safety measures. Pompeu Fabra University in Spain has reopened loan of books from its library, with a mandatory 14 day quarantine on books. The University of Barcelona offers students laptops and internet connection for virtual learning.
Apart from its short term consequences, COVID-19 is going to have a far reaching impact on education in the years to come. The World Education Forum suggests that education will be redefined and restructured as a result of the pandemic. The role of educators will move from being the knowledge-holder to that of a facilitator, as students access knowledge through technology.
While curriculums may evolve, the one thing that the pandemic has taught us is that the young generation will also need to be trained in resilience and adaptability. Apart from math, logic and language, these are going to be key skills needed to maneuver through an ever-changing post-pandemic world.