Governments around the world are working to reduce the direct impact of school suspensions, especially on more vulnerable and disadvantaged communities, and to promote continuity of education for all through distance learning.
UNESCO has published lots of detailed articles on the current unprecedented status of the academia, which has not occurred since World War II. According to these papers the impact of school closures is greater than any war in the history of our civilization. UNESCO’s research is summarized as follows:
Interruption of learning
The school offers basic learning and when it is closed, many children and adolescents are denied opportunities for growth and development.
A significant number of children and adolescents, especially in the poorer regions of the world, rely on free or discounted meals at schools. This is often the only place where they can get a balanced meal. The closure of schools deprives youth of healthy nutrition.
Pressure on teachers and confusion
When schools are closed, especially when they are accidentally closed and the duration is unknown, teachers get confused about how to keep in touch with their students to support learning. Even under the best possible conditions, the transition from the traditional face-to-face education to distance or online learning solutions is always chaotic and frustrating.
Parents are not prepared for distance learning
During the lockdown period, often dubbed as “The Great Pause”, parents have been asked to help their children learn at home, which is a difficult task, especially for those parents whose resources are limited.
The challenge of creating and maintaining distance learning
When traditional schools close it puts burden on the existing online learning platforms to handle the growing interest in distance learning. The sudden surge in the popularity of online learning alternatives poses serious challenges for e-learning developers, both human and technical.
During lockdown and without any learning alternatives, working parents may neglect their children, which can lead to dangerous behaviors, including the increased use of substances such as drugs.
High economic costs
Working parents more often miss work so that they could to take care of their children at home. This leads to wage losses and hampers productivity.
Worsening student loan debt crisis
This is more evident in the Western world where many students have already received educational loans. If the labor market does not recover, student debt can become a serious problem.
Unexpected pressure on the healthcare system
Many medical professionals with children cannot easily go to work due to their childcare obligations that have resulted from the lockdown. As a result, they are absent at the medical facilities where they are most needed to perform their jobs at the time of crisis.
Increased drop-out rate
Ensuring that children return to school after the closure is another challenge for local communities and governments. During the long-term learning interruption many children and teenagers work to financially support their families during the crisis.
More opportunities for exploitation
When schools are closed, child labor becomes a common practice, the number of early marriages increases, sexual exploitation of girls and teenage pregnancies increase, more children are recruited by the militia.
The school is the center of human interaction. When it closes, a lot of children and teens miss the opportunity to engage in social interaction. This is particularly important for students at a younger age to learn and develop within the peer environment.
How to measure and verify learning?
The evaluation of academic schedules and calendar closings, especially at schools with high-enrollment exams which determine the new level of education can lead to a total chaos when the school closes.
The strategy of skipping, postponing or taking exams remotely raises serious questions about fairness, especially when learning opportunities become variable. Interruptions in assessments can pressure students and their families and lead to withdrawal.
The New Unknown World?
In the following future trends, we will try to present some scenarios and solutions in the new unfolding world of education.
It can be said that the academic schedule has been completely ruined. Many lower-middle class students have limited computer access, Wi-Fi is sporadic and there are a lot of power outages. Well-synchronized online lessons are stressful for those teachers who are not used to using technology. Since there are not many other options yet, the education system accustomed to personal interaction is doing its best to adapt to the new standard. When we enter the new “unknown world”, there will be a lot of new knowledge, new insights and new trends:
1. Fewer children will return to school
Denmark eased the restrictions on April 14 by reopening schools and nurseries, but the country feared they could become a hotbed for the second wave of cases, persuading thousands of parents to leave their children at home.
The vast majority of parents ask this inevitable question, “Why should my child go out first?” especially since the virus is still present. Many wealthy middle-class people may want to delay the return of their children to school or university. Many families have suffered financially and will never be able to afford to send their children back to school.
2. Fewer children will leave their hometowns to study
Until the situation is over or at least settles down a bit, many parents will want to find some alternatives for their children to stay closer home. It often means finding a temporary job for the time of crisis.
3. Fewer children will study abroad
Today, all forms of international education are being affected by the crisis and this situation will continue for some time. As long as travel bans are in force, this will apply to studying abroad, staff exchanges and traineeships.
Universities remain closed and provide all education online. Every international conference in higher education has been canceled or turned into webinars. Now, that governments are reopening their societies and businesses are restarting, universities are also reopening their campuses.
The new social distance model will continue to be applied for some time, influencing on-campus learning classrooms to physical spaces such as libraries and social campus spaces for students.
4. Staying away from society and having little or no exercise
High fives, warm handshakes and hugs will disappear for a long time. Personal greetings and intimacy are all removed from tomorrow’s lesson. The class will change from social to asocial. Friendship, social networks and campus connections are temporarily suspended. Invisible walls appear that weaken the joy and euphoria of campus life in many ways.
5. Attending schools in shifts
The need for social distance means fewer students in a classroom. Therefore, most educational institutions will require two or even three shifts a day. While this will put more pressure on the teaching and administrative staff, it may, in fact, improve teaching and learning experience because of sparser class.
6. Social distance can deepen inequality
In fact, classroom equality has always been fictional. Unfortunately, this inequality will only increase in the coming days. The family background, social and economic status, the type of school has always shaped students’ confidence in the classroom. Vulnerable groups are likely to always be compliant participants, afraid of saying the wrong thing in class, so they’d rather be silent than join in. Attending the same physical classroom and wearing the same school uniform creates the sense of equality among students. Those who do not have Wi-Fi, high speed internet connection or have no internet access at all will suffer greatly and become even more socially distant.
7. Education and learning should be clarified
The role of teachers will be redefined in the future. The concept of teachers or educators as knowledge holders who impart wisdom to students is no longer suitable for future purposes.
These days, with just a few clicks on a mobile phone, students can gain knowledge instantly and learn many technical skills on their own and from the comfort of their homes. The new role of the teacher will be more of a facilitator or a mentor than a lecturer to help students become full-fledged members of society.
8. Education will evolve into high-tech
Online collaboration software and tools is not online learning. To achieve distance learning, technology will have to invest a lot of time. However, the distance learning mechanism is not necessarily fair. Distance learning requires students to be able to use powerful computer technologies, reliable internet services and uninterrupted power supply which in many areas is still an issue. Educators will have to come up with creative and high value educational content suitable for online environment. This gives a lot of opportunities for the teacher of the future.
9. Content-oriented technology
Many people can become so fascinated by technology that they may not pay enough attention to the use of all equipment that was eventually deployed. With the increasing popularity of devices, coupled with the fact that we can access more content from multiple places, more value will be placed on the content, how to use the content, rather than on a particular device. From this perspective, the future of education lies in “content”, not “container”.
10. The Matthew Effect must be foreseen and reduced
The Matthew Effect is not unusual in the field of educational technology. Those who benefit the most from the e-learning solutions and technology will be the children of well-educated and affluent parents. Investing in the use of educational technology is convincing, but claiming that the poor will benefit from this technology in the same way as the rich has no justification, to say the least. In fact, the opposite is true.
11. Lighter school bags can become a reality
In India, for example, an average elementary student has to carry with himself/herself about 5 kilograms of weight. This also depends on the type of class the student attends and his/ her age. Textbooks, notebooks and writing utensils is just a part of the weight. A meal in a lunchbox and an additional bottle of water add up to the total weight. It is clear that the expansion of technology will significantly reduce the weight of a school bag for children. One of the reasons is that both homework and schoolwork could be transferred and done online. This will definitely contribute to and reduce the amount of school material every student has to carry on the shoulders.
12. E-learning cannot be inferior
A study conducted by The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on the educational systems in many developed countries found that teenage learners who used computers in their daily learning practice performed poorer in math and reading and got much lower scores than their peers who did not use computers. Similar results come from a study by The Reboot Foundation showing a negative correlation between the use of computers at schools and students’ performance on tests such as the PISA. It is crucial that technology cannot in any way impede students’ ability to develop.
13. Personalized education and micro certificates
The future holds a wealth of opportunities for various types of learning. There will be more demand for flexible and personalized ways of gaining skills and knowledge. This trend has already begun. A lot of web-based courses and learning platforms were already in use in the per-crisis era. This will go forward offering a lot more diversified and specialized knowledge through personalized learning. Micro certificates obtained via self-paced and web-based learning will become a norm and will be recognized worldwide. Adult learners will attend more work related courses offering new areas of knowledge in AR, VR, AI, cloud computing, voice recognition, blockchain and much more. There will be more opportunities for “passion” learning. Technology is finally giving people the chance to broaden their knowledge in areas they have been interested in but had no time or resources to “dig deep”. Others will take up new hobbies since the information is just a click away.